Women with Mustaches and Men without Beards: Gender and Sexual Anxieties of Iranian Modernity

Women with Mustaches and Men without Beards: Gender and Sexual Anxieties of Iranian Modernity

Women with Mustaches and Men without Beards: Gender and Sexual Anxieties of Iranian Modernity

Women with Mustaches and Men without Beards: Gender and Sexual Anxieties of Iranian Modernity

Synopsis

Drawing from a rich array of visual and literary material from nineteenth-century Iran, this groundbreaking book rereads and rewrites the history of Iranian modernity through the lens of gender and sexuality. Peeling away notions of a rigid pre-modern Islamic gender system, Afsaneh Najmabadi provides a compelling demonstration of the centrality of gender and sexuality to the shaping of modern culture and politics in Iran and of how changes in ideas about gender and sexuality affected conceptions of beauty, love, homeland, marriage, education, and citizenship. She concludes with a provocative discussion of Iranian feminism and its role in that country's current culture wars. In addition to providing an important new perspective on Iranian history, Najmabadi skillfully demonstrates how using gender as an analytic category can provide insight into structures of hierarchy and power and thus into the organization of politics and social life.

Excerpt

Years ago, in the heat of a polemical exchange with a historian of Qajar Iran (1785–1925), who expressed regret and dismay that doing Qajar women’s history was impossible because few historical sources and solid extant records about women of that period existed, I retorted, “But if we use gender analytically, sources about men are also sources about women.” From the moment of its utterance, the sentence began to haunt me: How do we employ gender analytically so as to write history differently, to write history from which women are not absent and gender is not a missing category; one in which issues of gender and women are not afterthoughts and appendixes?

To consider gender as an analytical category (Scott 1988) poses questions different from those relevant for retrieving women’s history (Scott 2001). My questions became, What work did gender do in the making of Iranian modernity, and how did it perform this cultural labor? If central concepts of Iranian modernity were gendered, how were they gendered, and what effects did their genderedness produce for constitution of Iranian men and women of modernity (Felski 1995)?

From the late eighteenth century through the first decades of the twentieth century, Iranian modernity was shaped in the rearticulation of concepts like nation (millat), politics (siasat), homeland (vatan), and knowledge (‘ilm). These reconceptualizations depended on notions of gender. Until the first decade of the twentieth century, when women began to claim their place as sisters-in-the-nation, nation was largely conceived and visualized as a brotherhood, and homeland as female, a beloved, and a mother. Closely linked to the maleness of nation and the femaleness of homeland was the concept of namus (honor). Namus, transported from its religious affiliation (namus-i Islam), was reclaimed as a national concern . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.