Date of Award


Document Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name


Organizational Unit

College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Anthropology

First Advisor

Richard Clemmer-Smith


Iran, Women's studies, Ethnography


This research explores the boundaries of literature and ethnography in case of Reading Lolita in Tehran (Nafisi, 2003) and Persepolis(Satrapi, 2003) asking whether personal memoirs can be read as generational memories. By a) a historical survey of “Women’s Question” in contemporary Iran, b) studying the life experience of Iranian women who have been involved in the revolution, and c) explaining the theoretical relationship between memoir and ethnography, this thesis argues that Azar Nafisi’s and Marjane Satrapi’s accounts are obscure to life experiences and concerns of many Iranian women of the same generation in post-revolutionary Iran. These memoirs are not necessarily representative of Iranian women’s lives, but what American and European readership need to know to agree with the politics of war against terror and totalitarianism. My interviewees highlighted the role of economics very determining in their discussions around “Women’s Question”, while Nafisi and Satrapi portray women’s lives merely determined by religious or political ideologies. To portray women’s conditions in the post-revolutionary era, Nafisi and Satrapi reinforce the binary of villainvictim. They define these dichotomous couples in relation to each other, so that those villain women from a religious point of view are in fact victim women from secular backgrounds oppressed by villain men from a religious background. Nafisi’s and Satrapi’s rhetoric fits perfectly in the post 9/11 discourse, in which Iran, according to George Bush, is the axis of evil. Being perceived through the filter of Satrapi and Nafisi not only dismisses Muslim women’s agency in practicing religion, but takes away from their experience of revolution, reconstruction, and reform as mature and conscious agents of change.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. This work may only be accessed by members of the University of Denver community. The work is provided by permission of the author for individual research purposes only and may not be further copied or distributed. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Mahshid Zandi


Received from author

File Format




File Size

154 pgs