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Iranian Women and Society: Finding a Critical Lens into the Politics of Daily Life


Institute For Middle East Studies

In post-revolutionary Iran, women are legally “second class” citizens, with lesser rights than men in situations of family law (inheritance, custody, divorce, age of marriage) and public participation (restrictions on political office, public service, and legal testimony). But other evidence (ethnographic, demographic, and cinematic) indicates an increasingly empowered female population, and reminds us to look beyond surface impressions to understand the politics of daily life in the contemporary Islamic Republic of Iran. Through this lens, the lecture will attempt to ask and answer the question: How do we evaluate actual social and political conditions under less representative political systems, when a larger gap can exist between government actions and social reality?


  • Norma Claire Moruzzi is Associate Professor of Political Science, Gender and Women’s Studies, and History, Director of the International Studies Program, and Chair of the Middle East and Muslim Societies Cluster at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She received her Ph.D. in Political Science from The Johns Hopkins University; her book Speaking through the Mask: Hannah Arendt and the Politics of Social Identity (Cornell University Press: 2000) won the 2002 Gradiva Book Award. She has published on women’s and gender issues and cinema in Iran and the Middle East, and is a consulting member of the editorial committee of the journal Middle East Report. From 1998-2007 she regularly conducted field-work in Iran, while also participating in and conducting workshops for women’s groups and contributing to local journals. Her current project is a book analyzing transformations in Iranian women’s lives since the 1979 Revolution, titled Tied Up in Tehran: Women, Social Change, and the Politics of Daily Life.