Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Women and the Political Process in Twentieth-Century Iran

Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Women and the Political Process in Twentieth-Century Iran

Article excerpt

Women and the Political Process in Twentieth-Century Iran, by Parvin Paidar. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995. xvi + 363 pages. Gloss. to p. 367. Refs. to p. 390. Index to p. 401. $59.95. Reviewed by Guity Nashat

Although women have been active in Iranian politics throughout the 20th century, their involvement has not received the attention it deserves. Now, with the publication of Parvin Paidar's pathbreaking work, this oversight has been corrected. Paidar's work goes beyond a narrative account to offer a cogent analysis of the complex events she describes. The title of the book, however, conveys only partially the scope of this outstanding study. Although women constitute the central focus of her discussion, Paidar also offers a brief and cogent account of Iran's political evolution from a traditional, authoritarian country to a modern nation-state and, then, to an Islamic republic. By pairing the changing role of women with the evolving concept of the state, the author traces the major changes in Iran's political development in this century and touches upon most of the important changes in ideas about nation, state, and women.

Paidar's approach is novel and rewarding. It examines the condition of women and the changing perception of their role not in isolation, but within the framework of the evolution of the concept of "state," which itself is centered on modernity. The debate about the state set the terms and "the shape of the social and political institutions in Iran until the late 1970s" (p. 27) and gave rise to a new discourse on women and their emerging role. According to Paidar, women were, from the start, actively involved in the change in Iranian society's perception of female roles, even though activists were initially small in number. A sociologist, Paidar's training serves her well. She reaches conclusions on the basis of evidence instead of trying to fit the facts into a prior theory. Her discussion is devoid of the jargon and ideological ax grinding that mar some writing on gender or the evolution of the state. For example, despite her disapproval of the repressive policies of the Pahlavis, she believes that their reforms improved the condition of women. Similarly, although a feminist, she is critical of the shortsightedness of some leftist and feminist groups during the heyday of the Islamic Revolution in 1979 (pp. …

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.