by SHERALI TAREEN for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on DECEMBER 30, 2015:
In her fascinating new book Professing Selves: Transsexuality and Same-Sex Desire in Contemporary Iran (Duke University Press, 2015), Afsaneh Najmabadi, Professor of History and of Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Harvard University, explores shifting meanings of transsexuality in contemporary Iran. By brilliantly combining historical and ethnographic inquiry, Najmabadi highlights the complex ways in which biomedical, psychiatric, and Islamic jurisprudential discourses and institutions conjoin to generate particular notions of acceptable and unacceptable sexuality. Moreover, she also shows some of the paradoxical ways in which state regulation enables certain possibilities and spaces for nonheteronormative sexuality in Iran.
In our conversation, we talked about problems of translation involved in using Western categories in Gender and Sexuality Studies in the Iranian context, the certification process for sex change applicants in Iran, shifting conceptualizations of transsexuality overtime, continuities and ruptures seen in non-heteronormative masculinities in Tehran before and after the 1979 revolution, and the category of the narrative self. This multilayered book is at once lyrically written and theoretically exhilarating. It will be of much interest to students of gender and sexuality, Islamic law, religion and science, and of contemporary Iranian society. It will also make a wonderful choice for graduate and upper lever undergraduate courses on the same subjects.
LISTEN TO INTERVIEW WITH NAJMABADI
In September 2014 the Duke Islamic Studies Center (which manages the Transcultural Islam Project of which TIRN is a part), announced its official institutional affiliation with New Books in Islamic Studies — a bi-weekly audio podcast featuring hour long conversations with authors of exciting new research. For an archive see HERE.