The Iranian Studies initiative is led by Professor Janet Afary, professor of Religious studies at UCSB, who has published extensively on modern Iranian culture and politics as well as issues of gender, family, intimacy, and sexuality in Muslim-majority societies. She received her PhD with distinction from the University of Michigan. Her books include: Sexual Politics in Modern Iran (Cambridge University Press, 2009, winner of the British Society for Middle East Studies Annual Book Prize); The Iranian Constitutional Revolution: Grassroots Democracy, Social Democracy, and the Origins of Feminism (Columbia University Press, 1996, winner of Dehkhoda Institute Book Award; (with Kevin B. Anderson) Foucault and the Iranian Revolution: Gender and the Seductions of Islamism (University of Chicago Press, 2005, winner of the Latifeh Yarshater Book Award for Iranian Women’s Studies); (with John R. Perry) Charand-o Parand: Revolutionary Satire in Iran (Yale University Press, 2016), Honorable Mention Lois Roth Persian Translation Prize,And (with Kamran Afary) Molla Nasreddin: The Making of a Modern Trickster (Edinburgh University Press, 2022), winner of the British-Kuwait  Friendship Society Book Prize for best scholarly book in Middle East Studies published in the UK, and the Eugenia M. Palmegian Prize from the American Historical Association (US). She has served as president of several academic associations including the Association for Iranian Studies,  the Coordinating Council for Women in History (CCWH-AHA), and the Association for Middle East Women’s Studies (AMEWS-MESA). For more information, please see here.



Iranian Romance in the Digital Age: From Arranged Marriage to White Marriage  (Sex, Family and Culture in the Middle East) Janet Afary: I.B. Tauris

Iranian Romance in the Digital Age From Arranged Marriage to White Marriage

ISBN: 9780755618293


Publisher's website

Following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, there was a dramatic reversal of women's rights, and the state revived many premodern social conventions through modern means and institutions. Customs such as the enforced veiling of women, easy divorce for men, child marriage, and polygamy were robustly reintroduced and those who did not conform to societal strictures were severely punished. At the same time, new social and economic programs benefited the urban and rural poor, especially women, which had a direct impact on gender relations and the institution of marriage. Edited by Janet Afary and Jesilyn Faust, this interdisciplinary volume responds to the growing interest and need for literature on gender, marriage and family relations in the Islamic context. The book examines how the institution of marriage transformed in Iran, paying close attention to the country's culture and politics. Part One examines marital changes in the rural and tribal sectors of society through the works of anthropologists Erika Friedl and Mary Hegland. Part Two turns its eye to look at changes in urban marriages to new forms of cohabitation. In Part Three, the contributors explore the way technology and social media has impacted and altered the institution of family. Based on the work of new and established scholars, the collection provides an up-to-date study of an important and intensely politicized subject.



Charand-o Parand: Revolutionary Satire from Iran, 1907-1909 (World Thought in Translation)

ISBN-10: 0300197993


A classic of Modern Persian literature, Charand-o Parand (Stuff and Nonsense) is a work familiar to every literate Iranian. Originally a series of newspaper columns written by scholar and satirist Ali-Akbar Dehkhoda, the pieces poke fun at mullahs, the shah, and the old religious and political order during the Constitutional Revolution in Iran (1906–11). The essays were the Daily Show of their era. The columns were heatedly debated in the Iranian parliament, and the newspaper was shut down on several occasions for its criticism of the religious establishment. Translated by two distinguished scholars of Persian language and history, this volume makes Dehkhoda’s entertaining political observations available to English readers for the first time.

Ali-Akbar Dehkhoda (1879–1956) was a prominent linguist whose greatest achievement was an authoritative Persian dictionary.





Sexual Politics in Modern Iran

Publisher: Cambridge University Press

Date: April 2009

ISBN-10: 0521727081

ISBN-13: 978-0521727082


Sexual Politics in Modern Iran focuses on gender and sexuality and draws on her experience of growing up in Iran and her involvement with Iranian women of different ages and social strata. These observations, and a wealth of historical documents, form the kernel of this book, which charts the history of the nation’s sexual revolution from the nineteenth century to today. What comes across is the extraordinary resilience of the Iranian people, who have drawn on a rich social and cultural heritage to defy the repression and hardship of the Islamist state and its predecessors. It is this resilience, the author concludes, which forms the basis of a sexual revolution taking place in Iran today, one that is promoting reforms in marriage and family laws, and demanding more egalitarian gender and sexual relations.






Foucault and the Iranian Revolution: Gender and the Seductions of Islamism

Edition: Annotated edition edition

Publisher: University Of Chicago Press

Date: June 2005

ISBN-10: 0226007863

ISBN-13: 978-0226007861


In 1978, as the protests against the Shah of Iran reached their zenith, philosopher Michel Foucault was working as a special correspondent for Corriere della Sera and le Nouvel Observateur. During his little-known stint as a journalist, Foucault traveled to Iran, met with leaders like Ayatollah Khomeini, and wrote a series of articles on the revolution. Foucault and the Iranian Revolution is the first book-length analysis of these essays on Iran, the majority of which have never before appeared in English. Accompanying the analysis are annotated translations of the Iran writings in their entirety and the at times blistering responses from such contemporaneous critics as Middle East scholar Maxime Rodinson as well as comments on the revolution by feminist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir.

In this important and controversial account, Janet Afary and Kevin B. Anderson illuminate Foucault’s support of the Islamist movement. They also show how Foucault’s experiences in Iran contributed to a turning point in his thought, influencing his ideas on the Enlightenment, homosexuality, and his search for political spirituality. Foucault and the Iranian Revolution informs current discussion on the divisions that have reemerged among Western intellectuals over the response to radical Islamism after September 11. Foucault’s provocative writings are thus essential for understanding the history and the future of the West’s relationship with Iran and, more generally, to political Islam. In their examination of these journalistic pieces, Afary and Anderson offer a surprising glimpse into the mind of a celebrated thinker.


The Iranian Constitutional Revolution, 1906-1911

Publisher: Columbia University Press

Date: April 2005

ISBN-10: 0231103514

ISBN-13: 978-0231103510

Translations: Also Available in Persian (Bisotoun, 2000)


A thoroughly researched and highly detailed account of the formation of Iran’s first constitution, ratified on December 30, 1906, just a week before the death of Muzffar al-Din Shah. — Choice

“The Iranian Constitutional Revolution, 1906-1911” Adds significantly to the recent body of excellent work on the important and exciting story of Iran’s first twentieth-century revolution. Particularly in her discussion of neglected groups and classes, including women, peasants, and workers, Afary sheds major new light on their role in this epochal event, an event which is key to the understanding of twentieth-century Iranian and world history. — Nikki Keddie, University of California, Los Angeles