Rethinking Gender, Ethnicity and Religion: The Making of An Inclusive Definition of Iranianness

Azadeh Kian
Oct 25, 2023, 1:30 pm2:30 pm
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  • Free, Open to the Public



Event Description



The experiences of non-Persian Sunnite women and other subaltern women have been largely excluded from what is considered knowledge of women in Iran. Based on my quantitative and qualitative surveys of Baluch, Turkmen and subaltern Persian women mainly in Baluchistan, Golestan and Tehran provinces, I discuss crucial changes that have occurred in their lives as a result of social transformations. These marginalized categories as the new subjects emerged or gained, through their own struggles, the means to speak for themselves and threaten the dominant discourses.

I also analyze the (re) construction of women’s identities under et Pahlavis when the idea of social, ethnic, religious and linguistic diversity of the nation paramount during the Constitutional revolution disappeared and the nationalist ideology substituted Persianness for Iranianness.  Under the Islamic regime, the Shi’ite dimension of Iranian identity has been highlighted to the detriment of other religions, including Sunnism. Shi’ism is thus instrumentalized to legitimize structural relations of power based on gender, ethnicity, religion or class.

The Islamic state has tended to securitize ethnic/religious plea for equality and has excluded them from the national identity re-construction. It is therefore urgent to acknowledge the diversity and plurality of experiences of oppression and injustice and to place the marginalized at the center in order to achieve a non-hegemonic, inclusive definition of Iranianness.


Azadeh Kian obtained her MA and PhD from UCLA and is a distinguished Professor of Sociology and Gender studies and Director of the Center for Gender and Feminist Studies and Research (CEDREF) and its journal Les Cahiers du CEDREF at the université Paris Cité. She has published 6 single authored books and edited 12 books and journal volumes. Among her recent publications:

  • Rethinking Gender, Ethnicity and Religion in Iran: An Intersectional Approach to National Identity, London & New York, I. B. Tauris. Bloomsbury, 2023.
  • Femmes et pouvoir en islam (Women and Power in Islam), Paris, Editions Michalon, 2019. 
Poster for event, information in text.


Femke de Ruyter