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Veiled Employment

Islamism and the Political Economy of Women's Employment in Iran

edited by Roksana Bahramitash and Hadi Salehi Esfahani

Publication Year: 2011

The popularity of neoliberal economic policies is based, in part, on the argument that the liberalization of markets promotes growth and increases employment opportunities for women. Although the latest research bears this out, it also presents a grim portrait of the state of women’s employment. Approximately seventy percent of those living on less than a dollar a day are women or girls. In Veiled Employment, the editors seek to examine these stark disparities, focusing on the evolving role of women’s employment in Iran. Based on empirical field research in Iran, the contributors’ essays document the accelerating trend in the size and diversity of women’s employment since the 1990s and explore the impact of various governmental policies on women. The volume analyzes such issues as the effect of global trade on female employment, women’s contribution to the informal work sector, and Iranian female migrant workers in the United States. Rejecting the commonly held view that centers on Islam as the primary cause of women’s status in the Muslim world, the authors emphasize the role of the national and international political economies. Drawing on postcolonial feminist theory, these scholars reveal the ways in which women in Iran have resisted and challenged Islamism, revealing them as agents of social transformation rather than as victims of religious fundamentalism.

Published by: Syracuse University Press

Front matter

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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii


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pp. ix-xi

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pp. xiii-xvi

This project start ed in 2004, when I (Bahramitash) went back to Iran after thirteen years. The trip was a shocking experience as I found myself extremely uninformed about changes that had occurred during my absence. I had lived in Iran all my life, as a student in the early 1980s and then as a teacher at university in the late...


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pp. xvii-xx

Acronyms and Abbreviations

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pp. xxi-xxii

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pp. 1-24

In the winter of 2004 Roksana Bahramitash attended a nationwide conference in Tehran where workers, employers and entrepreneurs, and government officials came together to address issues such as wages and unemployment. The conference was heavily influenced by the International Labor Organization’s (ILO’s)...

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1. Gender and Globalization: The Iranian Experience

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pp. 25-52

The ways globalization has reshaped employment patterns and its implications for gender relations have been the subject of a number of studies. Few studies, though, have looked explicitly at this question for Iran. In this chapter I examine women’s employment in Iran within the context of globalization. Iran provides an interesting...

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2. Modernization, Revolution, and Islamism: Political Economy of Women’s Employment

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pp. 53-82

Iran is a country of geographical and cultural diversity. More than a third of the country is covered by deserts and mountains that separate regions characterized by a variety of climatic and agricultural conditions. The people who settled in these regions have unique dialects and traditions that add to the variety of socioeconomic conditions...

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3. From Postrevolution to the Reform: Gender Politics and Employment

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pp. 83-122

The previous chapter concluded with a brief discussion of dynamic jurisprudence. In the current chapter we will further examine how this hermeneutical turn became an important part of the reform movement. The concept of dynamic jurisprudence was not a novel one, but it was in the aftermath of the revolution that debates over it...

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4. The Transformation of the Female Labor Market

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pp. 123-165

In previous chapters, we covered the social, political, and economic context of prerevolutionary and postrevolutionary Iran. In this chapter we will focus on census data and quantitative analysis of this transformation. Much of the previously published work on female employment argues that because of the process of Islamization...

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5. The Effects of International Trade on Gender Inequality in Iran: The Case of Women Carpet Weavers

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pp. 166-190

Economic globalization is a historical process, the result of human innovation and technological advancements. It involves the increasing integration of economies around the world, particularly through trade and financial flows. Yet globalization has created inequality within and between nations, threatens employment and...

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6. Female-Headed Households in Iran: Microcredit versus Charity

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pp. 191-225

There has been increasing concern about the issue of growing poverty among women in general, but among female-headed households in particular. The problem was emphasized during the Beijing 10 meeting in New York during March 2005. Throughout the world, women as heads of households fare worse than men, even...

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7. Veiled Economy: Gender and the Informal Sector

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pp. 226-255

The informal sector has been defined by the International Labour Office as a group of household enterprises or unincorporated enterprises owned by households that includes informal ownaccount enterprises that may employ contributing family workers and employees on an occasional basis, and enterprises of informal...

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8. Iran’s Missing Working Women

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pp. 256-272

Available studies on Iran suggest the existence of a large, diverse, and growing informal economy. Estimates on the share of the informal economy vary from 6 to 33 percent of the total GDP, and 47 percent of the labor force (Khalatbari 1994; Ren

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9. Iranian Immigrant Women’s Labor Market Strategies: A Complex and Entangled Process

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pp. 273-304

This chapter, although it has a different geographical focus—the United States—similar to previous chapters is an examination of Iranian women’s labor market strategies and outcomes within relevant contexts. Similar to their cohorts in Iran, labor force participation...


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pp. 307-327


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pp. 329-351

E-ISBN-13: 9780815651192
E-ISBN-10: 0815651198
Print-ISBN-13: 9780815632139
Print-ISBN-10: 0815632134

Page Count: 360
Illustrations: 16 figures
Publication Year: 2011

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Sexual division of labor -- Iran.
  • Women -- Employment -- Iran -- Political aspects.
  • Women -- Employment -- Iran -- History.
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