KEYNOTE SPEAKER: Fataneh Farahani
Sexual politics in post-revolutionary Iran and the troubling diasporic epistemic responsibilities
Jina Mahsa Amini’s death in police custody following her arrest for ‘improper’ wearing of the hijab and more than five weeks of women-led uprising in Iran have put the gender politics of the Iranian regime at the center of global attention. What lies behind the regime's demand for the ‘proper’ covering of the Iranian female body and how is this related to the broader discourse of Iranian post-revolutionary sexual politics? More broadly, different political responses to veiling in Europe and elsewhere illustrate a strong entanglement of un/veiling practices with variety of intersecting valences; gender (in)equality, freedom of (or from) religion, European’s colonial history, Islamophobia, individual and citizenship rights.
As a racialized Middle-Eastern scholar in a Western diaspora, I have found writing / talking about veiling challenging, within the context of Iranian Shi’ite Islamic ideology and with specific regard for the historical and culturally specific practices of compulsory unveiling and re-veiling in Iran. How to write and talk about the veil, while also refusing the exoticised and undermining positioning of the knowing subject? How to do justice to the politically ambivalent insersections between exoticisation, victimisation, and valorisation of Muslim women? How to begin to address the lack of recognition of the diverse histories of women’s history of struggles to be veiled, as well as to be veil-less in different contexts? And what about the histories of epistemic eurocentric ignorance that circulate within our discussions and media coverage?
For the purpose of this presentation, by situating my personal and scholarly work - which are not mutually exclusive– I will discuss some of these difficulties through the following themes:
-The “Islamic” view on women’s sexuality
-Iranian Post-revolutionary sexual politics
-The diverse and complex history of un/veiling practices in Iran
-Conceptualizing the epistemic vulnerabilities of a diasporic scholar within the dominance of systems of Eurocentric knowledge production
Fataneh Farahani is professor in Ethnology at the department of Ethnology, History of Religion and Gender Studies at Stockholm University. Her main field of study is migration and displacement. In placing gender and sexuality at the centre of migration studies, she has engaged with issues of forced migration, citizenship, otherness, and marginality within different Western multicultural contexts. By examining the interanimations between social differences through empirical materials, Farahani has extended the theorization of migration experiences and positioning in new directions. Some of her publications are:
"Gender, Sexuality and Diaspora" (2018 Routledge), “Home and Homelessness and Everything in between: A Route from One Uncomfortable Zone to another One” (2015) and “On Being an Insider and/or an Outsider: A Diasporic Researcher’s Catch-22” (2010).
By editing two different themed issues (with Y. Gunaratnam), she has engaged with different aspects of hospitality/ hostility. The first edited issue on “Artistic and Intellectual Hospitality” at Discover Society (2020) explores contemporary rubrics of hostility in the context of evolving social and political imaginaries. The second themed issue on “Hospitality and Hostility: The Intimate Life of Borders and Migration” is published by Journal of Sociology (2021) gathers six authors who cover different aspects of Hospitality in UK, Turkey, Germany, Italy and Sweden.