We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

The Politics of Women's Rights in Iran

Arzoo Osanloo

Publication Year: 2009

In The Politics of Women's Rights in Iran, Arzoo Osanloo explores how Iranian women understand their rights. After the 1979 revolution, Iranian leaders transformed the state into an Islamic republic. At that time, the country's leaders used a renewed discourse of women's rights to symbolize a shift away from the excesses of Western liberalism. Osanloo reveals that the postrevolutionary republic blended practices of a liberal republic with Islamic principles of equality. Her ethnographic study illustrates how women's claims of rights emerge from a hybrid discourse that draws on both liberal individualism and Islamic ideals.

Osanloo takes the reader on a journey through numerous sites where rights are being produced--including Qur'anic reading groups, Tehran's family court, and law offices--as she sheds light on the fluid and constructed nature of women's perceptions of rights. In doing so, Osanloo unravels simplistic dichotomies between so-called liberal, universal rights and insular, local culture. The Politics of Women's Rights in Iran casts light on a contemporary non-Western understanding of the meaning behind liberal rights, and raises questions about the misunderstood relationship between modernity and Islam.

Published by: Princeton University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page, Dedication

pdf iconDownload PDF (54.7 KB)


pdf iconDownload PDF (50.8 KB)
pp. vii

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (63.5 KB)
pp. ix-xvi

IN HIS SPEECH before the United Nations in 1998, President Khatami announced his initiative to institute a Dialogue among Civilizations. The newly elected president’s initiative was meant as a response to Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” (1996), aimed at fostering cooperation and averting the ultimate clash. The UN endorsed this call by declaring 2001 the “Year of the Dialogue...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (57.5 KB)
pp. xvii

THIS PROJECT, which is the culmination of almost two decades of thinking about human rights, has many inspirations. My first debt of gratitude is to the Iranian people who gave me their time, brought me into their homes, and shared with me the details of their lives. While in Iran, I had the opportunity to learn from amazing lawyers, professors, students, and literally hundreds...

read more

INTRODUCTION: Human Rights and Cultural Practice

pdf iconDownload PDF (83.6 KB)
pp. 1-19

GIVEN THE NATURE of the Islamic state, Iran’s claim to a 2,500-year-old civilization, the effects of prerevolutionary “Western”-style modernity, and the influences of globalization, one of my central questions when I began this study was whether women in this “Islamic society” envision their rights solely through the lens of Islam, especially Islam as handed down by state agents...

read more

CHAPTER ONE: A Genealogy of “Women’s Rights” in Iran

pdf iconDownload PDF (104.3 KB)
pp. 20-41

THE CONCERN WITH “women’s rights” in Iran, as elsewhere in the Muslim Middle East, has been a persistent trope of modernity. This genealogical exploration of women’s rights attempts to situate the research question in broader historical processes that consider the power relations inherent in the approach to research or interpretation (Foucault 1977). The aim is not simply to address...

read more

CHAPTER TWO: Producing States: Women’s Participation and the Dialogics of Rights

pdf iconDownload PDF (130.5 KB)
pp. 42-74

“So tell me about the candidates in Tehran,” Narges asked as she soaked what looked like a gallon of rice in cold water. I was upstairs at the home of my neighbor and landlord as she was preparing a midday feast. Every Friday, Narges prepared a bigger lunch to accommodate her family and friends who came to visit, and she always included me in these holiday gatherings, giving me an...

read more

CHAPTER THREE: Qur’anic Meetings: “Doing the Cultural Work”

pdf iconDownload PDF (125.2 KB)
pp. 75-107

Nanaz opened the meeting with a warm greeting and welcoming words. On a day when a number of new women appeared to be in attendance, she reflected on why she and a small group of friends decided to recommence the Qur’anic meetings. She began with a dream: I came upon a poor man reading the Qur’an. He was sitting on a large rock along a rushing stream...

read more

CHAPTER FOUR: Courting Rights: Rights Talk in Islamico-Civil Family Court

pdf iconDownload PDF (115.6 KB)
pp. 108-137

WHEN HER NAME WAS CALLED, Goli walked into the courtroom. The judge greeted her as he sorted through Goli’s filings. At her previous court visit two months earlier, the judge told Goli that her husband had not responded to her petition and that she would have to wait a little longer before he would enter a divorce order (talaq).1 Today, Goli was asking the judge to grant...

read more

CHAPTER FIVE: Practice and Effect: Writing/Righting the Law

pdf iconDownload PDF (105.3 KB)
pp. 138-165

MS. TABRIZI'S LAW OFFICES looked like any other: waiting clients cast their eyes down, seemingly contemplating the shoes on their feet. Others anxiously scanned the room and tapped their heels as they waited in the small reception area of the ground floor office located in north central Tehran. Several young women in short overcoats, small scarves, and painted nails ran to and fro calling clients, serving tea, and answering phones. Here I, too...

read more

CHAPTER SIX: Human Rights: The Politics and Prose of Discursive Sites

pdf iconDownload PDF (127.7 KB)
pp. 166-199

THE UNMARKED DOOR OPENED to a dim reception area where a family sat waiting. A man turned to me, seemingly responding to my silent confusion, and said, “Yes, this is the right place.” Verifying, I asked, “This is the Islamic Human Rights Commission?” He nodded, adding, “Supposedly.” I first went to the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) to interview one of its...

read more

CONCLUSION: “Women’s Rights” as Exhibition at the Brink of War

pdf iconDownload PDF (51.4 KB)
pp. 200-208

HOW A MODERN LIBERAL THEORY of rights is mapped onto an Islamic Middle Eastern society, specifically through women’s articulations of rights, has been the focal point of this book. The Iranian experiment of creating an Islamic republic from France’s postwar vision of secular democracy warrants greater attention in understanding the socio-political underpinnings of...

APPENDIX: The Iranian Marriage Contract

pdf iconDownload PDF (16.4 KB)
pp. 209-210


pdf iconDownload PDF (93.4 KB)
pp. 211-226


pdf iconDownload PDF (31.4 KB)
pp. 227-230


pdf iconDownload PDF (73.9 KB)
pp. 231-250


pdf iconDownload PDF (448.6 KB)
pp. 251-258

E-ISBN-13: 9781400833160
E-ISBN-10: 1400833167
Print-ISBN-13: 9780691135472
Print-ISBN-10: 0691135479

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2009

Edition: Course Book