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Veiled Voices: Female Subjectivity and Gender Relations in Afghan and Iranian Cinemas Open Access


Other title
female subjectivity
Gender Relations
political engagement
female sexuality
marriage and divorce
veiled cinema
Afghan Cinema
imaging gildhood
Iranian Cinema
filmmaking as activism
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Dehnavi, Elahe
Supervisor and department
Demers, Patricia (English and Film Studies)
Examining committee member and department
Naghibi, Nima (English)
Rahimieh, Nasrin (Comparative Literature)
Braz, Albert (English and Film Studies)
Mersal, Iman (Modern Languages and Cultural Studies)
Comparative Literature

Date accepted
Graduation date
2017-11:Fall 2017
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Films as cultural products are remarkable sources for examining different dimensions of the complex institution of gender in the society in which they are produced. Focusing on a selection of cinematic narratives from post-Revolution Iran and Post-Taliban Afghanistan, this project examines the films’ representations of women in private and public relations as gendered subjects. Following feminist scholars, who highlight the embodiment of gendered subjectivity in cultural and historical contexts, this thesis explores different aspects of gendered experience in cinematic texts and examines how gender and sexuality are subjected to power. It considers both form and content and aims to provide textual and contextual analysis, but its main purpose is to offer a sociological reading of the selected films. Looking at images of girlhood, motherhood, women’s position in marriage and divorce, female love and desire, and women’s political engagement, it aims to understand how, in what ways, and to what extent independent filmmakers challenge social strains, traditional authority, and political forces that form the dominant discourse of gender and gender relations in Iranian and Afghan cultures. Reading the cinematic narratives in the socio-political context of their production, I contend that these independent films should be seen as part of the current discussions around gender politics and activist endeavours against conservative gender norms. In Afghanistan and Iran, where women’s rights movements are considered anti-Islamic and therefore demonized and repressed by the state or powerful religious groups, filmmakers have become civil activists who use social cinema as a tool to promote social change. They have developed a veiled cinematic language that allows them to address women’s status in society, shed light on the cultural and legal roots of gender discrimination, and challenge the patriarchal discourse of gender. This thesis outlines the features of this veiled language; it also examines émigré films that complement this cultural dialogue while enjoying the freedom from governmental censorship or domestic pressures from religious groups.
This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for the purpose of private, scholarly or scientific research. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
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