Performing Islam

Gender and Ritual in Iran


Performing Islam takes as its main focus the rich array of ceremonial activities that shape and inform the lives of circles of women in south Tehran. Based on anthropological fieldwork, the book describes and analyses rituals that mark religious anniversaries and life course events in Iran today. Arguing that the ritual performances are powerful forums where ideas develop, and where rules, symbols and discourses are contested, this book discusses the values and beliefs underpinning gender constructions in a rapidly changing and complex society. The ambiguous metaphorical language of the rituals is examined, revealing how gender ideologies are projected and renewed, but also challenged, destabilized and ridiculed. Thus the rituals provide possibilities for self-expression, innovation and incremental change. This study goes beyond questions of meaning and culture to interrogate the dynamics of gender performance as products of power and politics.

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Azam Torab, Ph.D. (1998) in Social Anthropology, Universityof London. Following studies in Basel and London,she was elected into a Research Fellowship at Clare Hall, University of Cambridge (1999-2004) and since 1998 has held a Research Associateship at SOAS in the Department of Social Anthropology at University of London.
Notes on Language

Blurring Boundaries
Women’s Caring Labour
A Well-Adjusted Misfit
The Morality of Self-Interested Exchange
Rites of Masculinity
Girls’ ‘Initiation’ Ritual
Reversal and Licence
The Head and Heart Tangle

Author Index
Subject Index
Those interested in social and cultural anthropology, sociology, gender, feminism, women’s studies, cultural studies, “popular culture”, contemporary history and sociology of religion, Islam and the Middle East.