Shirin Saeidi, Assistant Professor of Political Science.
Shirin Saeidi, assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, recently published a book, Women and the Islamic Republic: How Gendered Citizenship Conditions the Iranian State. His book explores how the post-revolutionary Iranian state transformed after the 1979 uprisings that established an Islamic Republic in Iran.
“I am influenced by scholarship that understands the state as an imaginary construct,” Saeidi said. “As such, I believe that the Iranian state is what the Iranian people imagine it to be. In my book, I have sought to understand this imagination by focusing on how non-elite women build the state through political and social struggles outside of formal spaces. For politics. In many ways, this project started with an image in my mind: non-elite women as artists building our future with their vital forces.
The process of state formation outside of the Western experience is understudied but fascinating to those interested in global politics and international relations beyond the borders of North American and European states. Saeidi poses the question: how does war affect the relationship between state elites and citizens in non-Western contexts? What can we learn about statecraft through a comparative political lens and with a focus on non-elite people living with a hybrid regime?
“I decided to focus my study on women in particular because I knew firsthand the important role Iranian women have in the democratization of their country,” she said. “The story of victimized Muslim women who needed to be rescued through international intervention dominated my life as a young adult living near Washington, D.C. This story, however, did not resonate with me as a native American. Iranian descent with strong political roots in two revolutionary countries.When I traveled to Iran in my youth, I saw the women of my own family navigating worlds that in many ways were opposed to them. who has worked hard to uphold democratic ideals in the United States despite terrifying experiences with Islamophobia.”
Saeidi explores state formation creatively drawing on poetry, mothering tactics, romantic relationships, gentleness, silence, femininity, Marxist literature, and everyday activism in the context of war and during the post-war years.
“Comparative studies in political science allow us to understand concepts such as citizenship, state formation, democracy, and authoritarianism in more nuanced ways that ultimately not only enrich the discipline of science political, but I would like to think that the pursuit of freedom for all is more tangible for all of us,” she said.
Through extensive fieldwork in Iran spanning almost a decade, Saeidi argues that citizenship has developed in changing and unpredictable ways in the post-revolutionary state. This challenges the masculine theorizations of the Iranian state that have dominated previous scholarship. His finding regarding the presence of citizenship in Iran also challenges the binary association that has historically been made between democratic and undemocratic states in political science. She insists that this is due to the powerful presence of Iranian women in contesting the process of state formation. She makes the counter-intuitive argument that the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88) empowered women in this endeavor because war demands women’s participation.
“Similar to experiences in the West, women in the Middle East, including Iranian women, have often been invited to join the public sphere in times of war,” Saeidi said. “And like women elsewhere in the world, women in the Middle East are also refusing to return home after the wars are over.”
While Saeidi wrote the book to shed light on Iran’s rights struggles through in-depth contextual analysis, she believes the volume will be of interest to DC policymakers, as well as Iranian political elites. This is due to the holistic view it offers on the intersections of religion, gender and political change in the post-revolutionary state.
“Above all, I hope that when students, scholars, and non-academic audiences read my book, they will appreciate the politics that unfold in daily life and the vital role that non-elite women play in national and international politics. “, she said. . “It’s certainly a theme that’s also increasingly recognized in American politics.”