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Open Access Publications from the University of California

State and the Paradox of Gender Segregation in Iran

  • Author(s): Shahrokni, Nazanin
  • Advisor(s): Ray, Raka
  • et al.

This dissertation is about state formation processes and gender segregation practices in postrevolutionary Iran. It uses gender segregation as a policy and spatial indicator to trace the shifts in state power between the establishment of the Islamic Republic (in 1979) and 2009. It explores the politics around the production of gender-segregated spaces, the imperatives of the state that produces them, and the implications for women's public presence.

Building on 182 interviews, more than 16 months of fieldwork between 2008 and 2011, this dissertation offers a thorough account of the (trans)formation of three major sites of gender segregation in Tehran, Iran, namely women-only parks, segregated buses, and men-only sports stadiums.

Throughout this work, I argue that current models that attribute the endurance of the Islamic Republic of Iran to its application of coercion and prohibitive measures, fail to account for the productivity of the Iranian state power. Thus, instead of dismissing the Iranian government mode of rule as that of religious totalitarianism using repression, I illustrate that it is more productive to look closely at the intricacies of power and the multitudes of their logics, in order to understand spaces, gender, Islamic rule, and subject formation.

This dissertation contributes to theories of the state, feminist theories, and theories of urban governmentality: First, a close examination of the state's official rationales for gender segregation policies and the tensions and problems these policies address illuminates how the state continuously reconfigures its power in order to maintain its legitimacy in an increasingly globalized world with its shifting geopolitical alignments. By delineating several historically contingent shifts in gender segregation policies, I illustrate the broader shift in the Iranian state power from authoritarian sovereignty in the 1980s to disciplinary governmentality.

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