Gender and sexuality in modern Iran are frequently examined through the prisms of nationalist symbols and religious discourse. In Revolutionary Bodies: Technologies of Gender, Sex, and Self in Contemporary Iran (Bloomsbury, 2020), Kristin Soraya Batmanghelichi, Associate Professor at the University of Oslo, Norway, takes a different approach, by interrogating how normative ideas of women's bodies in state, religious, and public health discourses have resulted in the female body being deemed as immodest and taboo. Through a diverse blend of sources, including a popular women's journal, a red-light district, cases studies of temporary marriages, iconic public statues, and an HIV-AIDS advocacy organization in Tehran, Batmanghelichi argues that conceptions of gender and sexuality have been mediated in public discourse and experienced and modified by women themselves over the past thirty years of the Islamic Republic. In our conversation we discuss the regulation of gender & sexuality through bodily technologies, tensions between state notions of modernization and Islamization, how Iranian women were visualized in the pages of magazines, a micro-history of the Red-light district in Tehran, organizing sex work within Islamic frameworks through temporary marriages, reinforcing “Islamic” public morality through the regulation of public space, the disfiguring of female mannequins, the challenges of ethnographic research and learning to ask new questions, and notions of gendered work in contemporary Iran.
Kristian Petersen is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies at Old Dominion University. You can find out more about his work on his website, follow him on Twitter @BabaKristian, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.