Why Americans Love Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran

Tuesday 29 March 2022

Donadey, Anne, and Ahmed‐Ghosh, Huma. (2008) Signs 33, no. 3

This article explores an interesting take on Nafisi’s “Reading Lolita in Tehran”. More specifically, it problematises its massive presence in university curricula, as it is generally believed to be an appropriate choice in courses centred on topics such as women’s rights and the Iranian revolution, especially in the United States, given the first-hand experience of the author and the presence of a female voice. However, its popularity is perhaps to be attributed not to its educational value, but rather to its perhaps not obvious reinforcement of stereotypes on the agency of women in the Middle East. In fact, as this article argues, the book does not encourage any challenging reflections for a Western reader, as Nafisi’s story often comments on Muslin women and Islam from a (perhaps internalised?) Western perspective, despite several attempts to do the contrary. Therefore, this article serves as an example of how the “white saviour complex” in peacekeeping operations is sometimes internalised by non-Western authors as well, as Nafisi’s work clearly connects the idea of peace to the Western world and culture, whereas Islam is seen as opposed to it. It is worth noting however that Nafisi’s reinforcement of a mainly Western perspective has to be contextualised in the aftermath of the Iranian Revolution, which created deeply divided approaches to religion, especially for women, in Iran at the time.

URL:  https://doi.org/10.1086/523709

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