Let’s Talk About Sex and Gender: The Case of Iran: A Book Review – By Hafsa Kanjwal

During a widely reported and controversial lecture at Columbia University in New York, the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, boldly declares: “In Iran we don’t have homosexuals like in your country”. His statement, which caused ripples internationally, especially in the United States, underscores prolonged tensions on the subject of gender and sexuality in modern Iran, a nation experiencing what many have called “a sexual revolution”. How do we come to understand the history behind these tensions? How does this history relate to the broader historiography of gender and sexuality in the Islamicate?

This review will look at two recent works, both published in the past decade, that have attempted to address these questions:  Women with Mustaches and Men Without Beards: Gender and Sexual  Anxieties of  Iranian Modernity, by Afsaneh Najmabadi and  Sexual Politics in Modern Iran, Janet Afary

Hafsa Kanjwal is a doctoral candidate in the joint degree program in History and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan, Anne Arbor. She graduated from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in 2008 with a degree in Regional Studies of the Muslim World.


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