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THE arguments made in this paper are based on empirical studies of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Azerbaijan, as well as on a review of studies of several other societies in the Muslim and non-Muslim global South. Through a brief review of Iran and a few references to post-Soviet Azerbaijan, the interplay between local and global factors in shaping the course of women’s movements and feminism is demonstrated. Attention is paid primarily to the positive impact of two specific aspects of globalization on women’s movements and feminism in these two societies: the international human rights regime (comprised of the United Nations and international nongovernmental organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch) and global feminism (comprised of feminist discourses, the international women’s movement, and transnational feminist networks ). As in other countries, it is the history, internal developments, and dynamism of each society, particularly the social praxis of women, that have played the main role in shaping the course of women’s movements in Iran and Azerbaijan. But external factors also, both during colonial times and in the present era of globalSOCIAL RESEARCH, Vol. 69, No. 3 (Fall 2002) The Global-Local Intersection of Feminism in Muslim Societies: The Cases of Iran and Azerbaijan BY NAYEREH TOHIDI ization, have influenced women’s movements and feminism in Muslim and non-Muslim societies. In the past, the global and external factor for women in the Muslim world was predominantly of a colonial nature. In colonial and postcolonial studies of Muslim societies, the gender- and class-based differential impacts of colonialism (in countries like Egypt, Syria, Iraq) or of Western hegemony (in countries that were never colonized, such as Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan) have been extensively studied. On women’s rights movement and feminism also, colonialism or Western domination left contradictory impacts.1 The external/global factor, due to the much more deeply penetrating and transformative processes of globalization, is distinct from the colonial system of the past. Globalization, replete with contradictions, is more akin to the Industrial Revolution in its impact on societies, its intervention directly into daily life as well as economies, institutions of governance, and world order (Giddens , 1994; Held et al., 1999). Because of increasing globalization , no gender regime and therefore no women’s movement in any locality (country or community) can be studied and understood without taking global influences into account. An obvious, recently illuminated case in point is the situation of women in Afghanistan. Women’s status and rights in Afghanistan cannot be accounted for without understanding the interaction between the local (history, geography, geopolitics, political economy, culture, and Afghan women’s own agency and struggles) and the global or international factors, including the intervention of the superpowers (the Soviet Union and the United States), the regional powers (including Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Iran) and the subsequent interventions of international human/women’s rights groups and feminist networks. Before reviewing the case studies, some conceptual and theoretical clarification and definitions that make up the framework of this study are offered. 852 SOCIAL RESEARCH Globalization and “Global Feminism” Globalization processes, especially since the 1970s, have affected feminist mobilization for change in many different societies . Feminist interventions, in turn, have aimed to affect the parameters and direction of globalization processes (Eschle, 2001: 192). The increasing globalization and integration of the world through international trade, migration, faster and less expensive transportation, and new electronic communication and information technology, have led to a situation in which a growing number of women and men belong to more than one community. Communities and group identities are overlapping and de-territorializing, and an escalating number of individuals who become multicultural and multilingual are adopting more fluid and multiple identities (Jaggar, 1998; Appadurai, 1996). Globalization is accompanied by intensification of consciousness of the world as a whole (Robertson, 1996: 8; Giddens, 1994: 5-7). This and other effects of globalization have important implications for gender relations and women’s status in all societies. Anthony Giddens, for example, points to the indirect impact of global processes on social pressure for democratization in the form of “the expansion of social reflexivity and detraditionalization ” (Giddens, 1994: 111). As they become...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-768X
Print ISSN
0037-783X
Pages
pp. 851-887
Launched on MUSE
2015-04-01
Open Access
No
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