WOMEN: Voices from Iran: The Changing Lives of Iranian Women

By Friedl, Erika | The Middle East Journal, Winter 2004 | Go to article overview

WOMEN: Voices from Iran: The Changing Lives of Iranian Women


Friedl, Erika, The Middle East Journal


WOMEN

Voices from Iran: The Changing Lives of Iranian Women, by Mahnaz Kousha. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2002. 228 pages. Notes to p. 238. Bibl. to p. 244. $19.95 paper.

The most appealing aspects of the book under review are the author's empathy with her subjects and her serious engagement with their concerns; the attempt to get beyond Western stereotypes; the interest in what women themselves want to say; and the presentation of such a controversial topic at all. These are considerable achievements.

In eight chapters, Mahnaz Kousha, a sociologist living in the United States, writes about her interviews with 15 women in Tehran in 1995 and 1997. One chapter sketches the interviewees; two more deal with mother-daughter relationships, one with father-daughter relationships; one is on issues of marriage; one on paid work (titled, for some reason, "Women's Lives, Women's Words"); the next discusses if men are "better off than women; and the last one (again, "Women's Words"), deals with individuation. No clear structure is discernible in the titles or in the content. The Introduction describes Western stereotypes of Iranian women, but neither it nor a short autobiographical chapter ("Starry Nights") furnishes much insight into the author's methodology or theory, or a solid cultural/social background for the women's experiences. Instead, we get sentences like, "These images...have enshrouded reality. A thick white fog has fallen..."(p. 4). Indeed, it is not clear who the intended readership is. Social scientists usually look for more theory, analysis, and presentation of data (even in a postmodern text) than are provided here - there isn't even an index. Non-professional readers might find the book appealing but will get many of their stereotypes about women in Iran confirmed.

I see the shortcomings not so much as the author's fault than as examples of trends in the social sciences generally. I will address five.

1. The appropriation of ethnographic methodologies by various professions has led to "quick ethnographies" based on journalistic data. This book, for example, is based on only 36 hours of interviews. There is little background, virtually no analysis, no summary of themes or shared concerns to help us place these women in a wider context. Instead, we get "explanations" based on unidentified premises and unreflected assumptions. This falls short of good journalism and good science.

2. The tendency of publishers to favor popular non-fiction over straight ethnographies, for example, easily leads to shallow social science-writing. Here, unique but relatively little information is spun into 228 pages containing much fluff. The author's apparent goal to write in a popular style made her avoid bringing either sociology to bear on her data or her presumed knowledge as an Iranian about the society that produced the women. Instead, we get quotes from interviews followed by long restatements of the quotes in different words (e.g., pp. 115, 131).

3. Together with the trend towards quick-read writing runs one towards minimal editing. Only this can explain the disheartening amount of redundancy in this book.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

WOMEN: Voices from Iran: The Changing Lives of Iranian Women
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.