Arzoo book

The Politics of Women's Rights in Iran

Princeton University Press, 2009
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In The Politics of Women's Rights in Iran, Arzoo Osanloo explores how Iranian women understand their rights. After the 1979 revolution, Iranian leaders transformed the state into an Islamic republic. At that time, the country's leaders used a renewed discourse of women's rights to symbolize a shift away from the excesses of Western liberalism. Osanloo reveals that the postrevolutionary republic blended practices of a liberal republic with Islamic principles of equality. Her ethnographic study illustrates how women's claims of rights emerge from a hybrid discourse that draws on both liberal individualism and Islamic ideals.

Osanloo takes the reader on a journey through numerous sites where rights are being produced—including Qur'anic reading groups, Tehran's family court, and law offices—as she sheds light on the fluid and constructed nature of women's perceptions of rights. In doing so, Osanloo unravels simplistic dichotomies between so-called liberal, universal rights and insular, local culture. The Politics of Women's Rights in Iran casts light on a contemporary non-Western understanding of the meaning behind liberal rights, and raises questions about the misunderstood relationship between modernity and Islam.

Articles in peer-reviewed journals
November 2017

“On Not Saving the Muslim Women (and Men)”

Journal of Middle East Women's Studies, Special Forum: "Trump's Presidency and Middle East Women's Studies" 13(3): 479-482.

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May 2015

“Framing Rights: Women and Family Law in Pre- and Post-Revolutionary Iran”

New Middle Eastern Studies 5:1-18.

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November 2012

“When Blood Has Spilled: Gender, Honor, and Compensation in Iranian Criminal Sanctioning”

PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review 35(2): 307–325.

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Summer 2012

“Redress: Rights and Other Remedies, A Comment on David Engel's Article on Rights Consciousness”

Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies 19 (2): 495-505.

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Spring 2008

“Whence the Law: Politics of ‘Women's Rights,’ Regime Change and the Vestiges of Reform in the Islamic Republic of Iran”

Radical History Review 101: 42-58.

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November 2006

“The Measure of Mercy: Islamic Justice, Sovereign Power, and Human Rights in Iran”

Cultural Anthropology 21(4): 570-602.

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May 2006

“Islamico-civil ‘rights talk’: women, subjectivity, and law in Iranian family court”

American Ethnologist 33(2): 191-209.

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December 2004

“Doing the ‘Rights’ Thing: Methods and Challenges of Fieldwork in Iran”

Iranian Studies 37(4): 675-684.

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Articles in peer-reviewed edited volumes

“Righteous Injuries: Victim's Rights and Offender's Suffering in Iranian Criminal Sanctioning”

In Injury and Injustice: Cultural Practices of Harm and Redress.
A. Bloom, D. Engel, and M. McCann, eds., London: Cambridge University Press, 2018. Pp. 96-114.

“Evidence, Certainty, and Doubt: Judge's Knowledge in Iranian Criminal Sanctioning”

In Truth, Intentionality and Evidence: Anthropological Approaches to Crime and Tort.
Yazid Ben-Hounet and Deborah Puccio-Den, eds., London: Routledge Press, 2017. Pp. 28-45.

“Women and Criminal Law in Post-Khomeini Iran”

In Social Change in Post-Khomeini Iran.
Mahmood Monshipouri, ed., London: Hurst Publishers, 2016. Pp. 91-112.

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“Crime and Reconciliation: Women's Peace Initiatives in the Islamic Republic of Iran”

In Women and Peace in the Islamic World: Gender, Agency and Influence.
Yasmin Saikia and Chad Haines, eds. London: I.B. Tauris, 2014. Pp. 224-245.

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“Les pratiques sociales et légales du pardon dans le système judiciaire iranien”

In Justice, Religion, Réconciliation.
Yazid Ben Hounet, Sandrine Lefranc & Deborah Puccio-Den, eds. Paris: Editions L'Harmattan. Collection « La religion en question », 2014. Pp. 83-94.

“Khomeini's Legacy on Women's Rights and Roles in the Islamic Republic of Iran”

In A Critical Introduction to Khomeini.
Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014. Pp. 239-255.

“From Status to Rights: The Shifting Dimensions of Women's Affairs and Family Law in Iran”

In Feminist Activism, Women's Rights and Legal Reform.
Mulki Al-Sharmani, ed. London: ZED Books, 2014. Pp. 125-150.

“Human Rights by Any Other Name”

In Iran Confronting 21st Century Challenges: In Honour of Mohammad-Reza Djalili.
H.E. Chehabi, Farhad Khosrowkhavar, and Clement Therme, eds., Los Angeles, CA: Mazda, 2013. Pp. 79-95.

“Contesting Governance: Authority, Protest, and Rights Talk in Post-Republican Iran”

In Comparative Authoritarianisms: Syria and Iran.
Steven Heydemann and Reinoud Leenders, eds. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2012. Pp. 127-142.

“What a focus on ‘family’ means in the Islamic Republic of Iran”

In Family Law in Islam: Divorce, Marriage and Women in the Muslim World.
Maaike Voorhoeve, ed., London: I.B. Tauris, 2012. Pp. 51-76.

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In Case Studies in Comparative Politics.
David J. Samuels, ed. New York: Pearson Press, 2012. Pp. 407-447.

Fall 2009 / Winter 2010

“Khoon Reekht: Tahleelee Jensi az Kayfar va Mojazaat dar Iran”

(Blood Has Spilled: A Gendered Analysis of Crime and Punishment in Iran) S. Shahshahani, trans. Farhang va Ensan (Culture and Being), Tehran, Iran, 5(2): 103-122.

“Refusing Mercy: The Hunger Strike Controversy as a Challenge to the State's Monopoly on Violence in Iran”

In Policing and Prisons in the Middle East.
Laleh Khalili and Jillian Schwedler, eds. New York: Columbia University Press, 2010. Pp. 263-277.

Book Review Essays
Forthcoming 2018
Matthew S. Erie

China and Islam: The Prophet, the Party, and the Law.

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016, Law and Society Review.

Summer 2018
Orkideh Behrouzan

Prozak Diaries: Psychiatry and Generational Memory in Iran.

Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2016, Iranian Studies.

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September 10, 2015
Marion H. Katz

Women in the Mosque: A History of Legal Thought and Social Practice.

New York: Columbia University Press, 2014, Journal of the Society for Contemporary Thought and Islamicate World.

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Public Scholarship: Invited Commentary, Essay, and Advisory
March 2018

“Methods as Politics and the Anthropology of Change in Iran”

American Anthropologist, Vol.120(1): 150-51.

February 2, 2017
Advisory on the

“Presidential Executive Order 13769: Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States”

Middle East Center, University of Washington.

October 2016

“Forbearance Advocacy and Criminal Sanctioning in Iran”

The Foreign Policy Centre, Iran Human Rights Review, Women and Human Rights.

June 2015

“Postscript to ‘When Blood Has Spilled: Gender, Honor, and Compensation in Iranian Criminal Sanctioning’”

Political and Legal Anthropology Review Online.

December 14, 2014

“Interview with Arzoo Osanloo about ‘The Measure of Mercy.’”

Curated Collections, Cultural Anthropology Online.

March 2013
Guest Editor


Zannegaar Online Journal, Issue 11, "Law, Culture, and Gender," (in English and Persian).

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A mother signing forbearance.
A mother signing forbearance agreement forgoing retributive punishment for her son's murder.
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