[The Essential Readings series is curated by the Middle East Studies Pedagogy Initiative (MESPI) team at the Arab Studies Institute. MESPI invites scholars to contribute to our Essential Readings modules by submitting an “Essential Readings” list on a topic/theme pertinent to their research/specialization in Middle East studies. Authors are asked to keep the selection relatively short while providing as much representation/diversity as possible. This difficult task may ultimately leave out numerous works which merit inclusion from different vantage points. Each topic may eventually be addressed by more than one author. Due to the timely nature of this installment, it takes a different form from our other Essential Readings. Articles such as this will appear permanently on www.MESPI.org and www.Jadaliyya.com. Email us at info@MESPI.org for any inquiries.]

Taking our lead from the Kurdish slogan “women, life, freedom” and from the feminist origins of the current uprising in Iran, we offer these readings to encourage critical engagement and debate within a transnational context. This unprecedented feminist revolutionary movement has challenged many existing paradigms for understanding Iranian society, the politics of dissent, and feminist practices of solidarity. We recognize that no “essential readings” list can ever fully represent the diversity of views in Iran or in the Iranian diaspora, however, we believe that each of our selections offers a significant contribution toward a deeper understanding of this historic moment.

Short Commentary

  1. Figuring a Women’s Revolution: Bodies Interacting with their Images
    by “L”
  2. Tomorrow Was Shahrivar 1401: Notes on the Iranian Uprisings
    by Iman Ganji and Jose Rosales
  3. I’ve Protested for Women’s Rights in Iran Since 1979: This Movement is Different
    by Zan Irani
  4. Why is Iran’s Regime Afraid of this Song?
    by Nahid Siamdoust
  5. Iran’s New Revolutionary Figure is Feminist
    by Catherine Sameh
  6. A New Iran had been Born: A Global Iran
    by Asef Bayat
  7. Situating Iran within Inter-Elite Class Politics in Iran
    by Ali Terrenoire
  8.  “Woman, Life, Freedom”: Iran’s Protests Are A Rebellion for Bodily Autonomy
    by Narges Bajoghli
  9. “Woman, Life, Freedom” and the Progressive Academe
    by Maryam Alemzadeh
  10. How Iran’s Hijab Protest Movement Became So Powerful
    by Fatemeh Shams
  11. How Would We Know If We Were Witnessing a Revolution in Iran?
    by Charles Kurzman

Histories of Feminism in Iran and Iranian Diaspora

Early and Mid-Twentieth Century Women’s Movements

Janet Afary, The Iranian Constitutional Revolution, 1906–1911: Grassroots Democracy, Social Democracy, and the Origins of Feminism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996).

Afsaneh Najmabadi, “Veiled Discourse-Unveiled Bodies.” Feminist Studies, vol. 19, no. 3, 1993, 487–518.

1979 Revolutionary Era

Haideh Moghissi, Populism and Feminism in Iran: Women’s Struggle in a Male-Defined Revolutionary Movement (London: Macmillan Press LTD, 1996).

Minoo Moallem, Between Warrior Brother and Veiled Sister: Islamic Fundamentalism and the Politics of Patriarchy in Iran (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005).

Negar Mottahedeh, Whisper Tapes: Kate Millet in Iran (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2019).

Everyday Feminisms and Women’s Rights in the Post-Revolutionary Period

Homa Hoodfar, The Women’s Movement in Iran: Women at the Crossroads of Secularization and Islamization (Grabels Cadex: Women Living Under Muslim Laws, 1999).

Arzoo Osanloo, The Politics of Women’s Rights in Iran (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009).

Nazanin Shahrokhni, Women in Place: The Politics of Gender Segregation (Oakland: University of California Press, 2020).

Shirin Saeidi, Women and the Islamic Republic: How Gendered Citizenship Conditions the Iranian State (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2022).

Claudia Yaghoobi, “Over 40 Years of Resisting the Compulsory Veiling: Relating Literary Narratives to Text-Based Protests to Cyberactivism,” Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies vol. 17, no. 2, July 2021, 220-239.

“The Political Economy of the Green Movement: Contestation and Political Mobilization in Iran” by Fariba Adelkhah

Transnational and Diasporic Feminist Analysis

Catherine Z. Sameh, Axis of Hope: Iranian Women’s Rights Activism across Borders (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2019).

Sima Shakhsari, Politics of Rightful Killing: Civil Society, Gender, and Sexuality in Weblogistan (Durham: Duke University Press, 2020).

Manijeh Moradian, This Flame Within: Iranian Revolutionaries in the United States (Durham: Duke University Press, 2022).