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International Trends Islam, Politics, and Problems of Writing Women's History in Iran Hammed Shahidian The spread of the women's movement in postrevolutionary Iran introduced research in women's history as an immediate task for Iranian social sdentists.1 This task has both academic and practical significance. Since the veü of history has exüed women to a remote corner, restoring women to history wül lead us to a deeper and more complex understanding of economic, poUtical, and cultural inequaUties. Furthermore, by breaking down the walls of isolation, historical ties develop among women. Writing women's history 'leads to the formation of poUticized consdousness and self-identity."2 IndividuaUy oppressed people wül discover continuity. Not possessing the history of their Ufe and struggle has caused progressive women and men to repeat mistakes, often with too great a price to pay. In order to compensate for this shortcoming and to develop continuity with the past, it is essential to have a common language which wül be effective for an understanding of women's Ufe experiences as weU as fadUtating their communication. Discovering women in history is an important step in this direction. Middle East scholars have already pointed out the significance of historical studies of women in this region.3 This article is an analytical study of existing histories of women in Iran and their underpinnings. It emphasizes the sodal, poUtical, and theoretical limitations of writing women's history and points out some immediate theoretical tasks of writing women's history in Iran. Historiography, Social Scientific Research, and Writing Women's History One fundamental problem of writing women's history in Iran is that, as in most other sodeties, there is a paucity of sources.4 For instance, a bibUography of Persian sources on women, compüed over fifteen years ago, induded merely sixty-eight items.5 Even though this is not a complete bibUography and new sources have become avaüable since its pubUcation, the scardty of the data contained in this booklet is indicative of the status of women's studies in Iran. The prevalence of sexism in the sodal sciences in Iran is undoubtedly an important reason for this failure. Another obstade is the lack of avaüabüity of raw data. In addition, many © 1995 Journal of Women's History, Vol. 7 No. 2 (Summer) 114 Journal of Women's History Summer scholars have expressed concern over the retiabitity of existing data.6 The number of useful sources is even more Umited, since most "new books" are in fad new compUations and arrangements of old data. Rarely do we see a new book or artide which is the produrt of fresh research or reconsideration of historical processes in Ught of new theoretical developments. Books like Wül Duranf s The Story of Civilization continue to be a main source of historical knowledge for Iranian historians and sodal scientists.7 Debates on historical issues, sodology of history, methodology of historical research, problems of historical narrations, or ferninist critiques of history reach Iranian historians after long delays. Also, the lack of comparative research in Iran has resulted in continued survival of old analyses and assumptions, such as the maternal instind or, as one author put it, "women's interval weakness" which results from menstruation, pregnancy , or ladation.8 Although there is an awareness of the biases of historical sources among contemporary historians, the absence of women in history books is often taken as an objective and neutral reflection of their insignificant role. This conviction leads the historian to overlook the fad that women's history is subject to historians' betiefs and assumptions which influence their observations, selection processes, or frames of analysis. Male historians have often considered only male activities to be significant in the making of human history and civilization, hence only these activities are worthy of recording. Throughout Iran's history women are omitted from accounts of war, peace, disease, sanitation, law-making, or governing. In the history of contemporary Iran, for instance, many aspeds of women's partidpation in the Constitutional Revolution of 1906 to 1911 remain undisclosed. Most records of the Constitutional Revolution reduce women's role to a minimum. The...


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