The International Journal of the Image offers an annual award for newly published research or thinking that has been recognized to be outstanding by members of the The Image Research Network.
Asghar Farhadi’s complex female characters pose an immediate challenge for the western viewer. Women in his films are positioned as culturally and socially specific discursive agents of the complexities and internal divisions of Islamic feminism. Farhadi presents us with a set of women who are caught up in a dominant and suffocating patriarchal society, from which they constantly attempt to break through, and constructs a phantasy of escape either through actively seeking immigration or through engaging in public practices of female empowerment. On the other hand, Farhadi consciously portrays another set of women who are reluctant to follow in the footsteps of their westernized and liberated sisters. These are the women who operate within an Islamic system of relationships, which Hamid Naficy describes as the “averted gaze,” and which signals the Iranian establishment’s effort to create a desexualized presence of women in post-revolutionary Iranian cinema. The argument that we propose in the following paper is that Farhadi masterfully navigates the encounters of the female characters within the cinematic space of his films by presenting a polysemic and infinitely open-to-negotiation space of female agency, which transcends and decenters the traditional conventions of both western and Islamic feminisms.
Dr. Dilyana Mincheva is an Assistant Professor in Critical Media in the Department of Communication Studies and Multimedia at McMaster University, Canada. Her most recent research is engaged with the culturological study of Islamic feminism, the politics of image in cinematic feminism and utopia. She is the bearer of two international awards for research excellence (2012 and 2015) granted by the Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society and the author of the monograph The Politics of Western Muslim Intellectual Discourse in the West: The Emergence of a Western-Islamic Public Sphere, Sussex Academic Press, 2016. Mincheva is currently at work on a second monograph focused on socially and cinematically mediated forms of Islamic feminism.
Niloofar Hooman is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Communication Studies and Multimedia at McMaster University. She is also doing a Graduate Diploma (Ph.D.) in the Department of Gender Studies and Feminist Research at McMaster University. Niloofar holds a Ph.D. in Communication, an MA in Cultural Studies and the Media, and a BA in Social Communications from the University of Tehran. Her research interests include social media, digital activism, feminism, sexuality and the female body, focusing on Iran in the frameworks of critical, postcolonial, and feminist theories. Niloofar’s Ph.D. thesis project concentrates on the embodiment, performances of nudity and unveiling as political actions in Iran. She is also an editorial board member of the Manchester Journal of Social Sciences from June 2020.
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