Facing the conflicts and complicities between capitalist modernisation and Islamisation : a study of women’s subjectivities and emancipatory struggles in Iran

Taghavi, N 2018, Facing the conflicts and complicities between capitalist modernisation and Islamisation : a study of women’s subjectivities and emancipatory struggles in Iran , PhD thesis, University of Salford.

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This thesis is concerned with understanding women’s emancipatory struggles and efforts to challenge their secondary status in Iran, but with reference to other Muslim societies in the Middle East. To explore the possibility of women’s emancipation in Iran, the thesis focuses on, firstly, the position of women in relation to the forces of capitalist modernisation and Islamisation; secondly and more importantly, on women’s main convictions and inner-conflicts, and how these are shaped by those forces. The thesis thus seeks to grasp the structure and dynamics of women’s subjective field and to identify distinct subjective patterns which would constitute different responses to their situation.

The thesis is divided into two parts: first, a literature review throws light on different crucial aspects of women’s lives and possibilities for transformation in Iran and other Muslim societies in relation to the forces of capitalist modernisation and Islamisation. While showing the richness and growing sophistications of an expanding field of study, the literature review also pointed out to a few significant lacunae or gaps in current research. Two such gaps stand out and are of the greatest relevance for this thesis, namely, the fact that the issues of women’s emancipation and subjectivities are missing in most studies of Muslim women, as these studies tend to overwhelmingly focus on women’s (often imposed rather than self-attributed) identities and on the anti-Western or anti-Islamic aspects thereof.

The second part of this thesis, a field study, seeks to fill in some of those gaps, particularly those concerning women’s subjectivities and struggles for emancipation. In-depth semi-structured open-ended interviews with twenty-two Iranian women in Tehran from different social classes and backgrounds were conducted. The interviews, based on an interview guide designed so as to capture crucial aspects of women’s subjective dispositions and strivings for emancipation, immediately brought out the critical importance of the opposition, missing in most studies, between capitalism and emancipation, and enabled the development of a two-dimensional framework based on two central oppositions: capitalism vs. emancipation on the horizontal axis or dimension, and modernity vs. tradition on the vertical one.

A more in-depth analysis of the interviews through the lens of the new framework allowed the identification of four main subjectivities carried by women and explain their emergence in terms of interaction effects between the four subjective determinations defining the framework (capitalism, modernity, emancipation and tradition): Islamist subjectivity, a statist form of religion in strong opposition to emancipatory feminism, the subjectivity of desire for the West, a fascination for individualism and a Western lifestyle and a denial of tradition, traditionalist subjectivities, a strong tendency to preserve all forms of traditions particularly religion and nationalism, and emancipatory subjectivity, although the latter only appears in this study in the form of modern emancipatory aspects and elements (with equality at their core) rather than a full-fledged ‘emancipatory subjectivity’.

Thanks to this form of analysis we have come to understand that women’s movements in Iran are more oriented towards ‘tackling Islamisation’ than ‘seeking equality’ or ‘challenging patriarchy’. It is on this basis that the thesis draws two of its main conclusions: firstly, that the opposition between capitalism and emancipation should be not only taken into account, but a major basis for any future studies on Muslim women; and, secondly, that the struggle against Islamisation cannot be separated from the struggles against social inequality and patriarchy.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Schools: Schools > School of Health and Society
Depositing User: N Taghavi
Date Deposited: 22 May 2018 10:53
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 21:08
URI: http://usir.salford.ac.uk/id/eprint/46387

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