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Shahandeh, Katayoun (2024) Reimagining the Feminine Self: Strategies of Subversion in the Works of Contemporary Iranian Female Artists. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This thesis examines the works, produced over the last thirty years of around fifty contemporary Iranian female artists, both living in Iran and the diaspora. The artists discussed, mostly were either very young or were born after the Iranian Revolution (1978-79), thus being “children of the Revolution”. The works discussed are, likewise, produced from the 1990s onwards and greatly impacted by the socio-political events and rhetoric which emerged after the Revolution which, apart from causing a fissure in the fabric of society, were also catalysts for both a questioning of identity and a great rise in women artists who became concerned with these subjects. The identity found in these artists’ works is complex and quite often paradoxical. It stands at the crossroads between Tradition and Modernity, East and West, Private and Public and other such competing binaries. It has been formed, in great part, as an identity of resistance in response to the state’s Manichean worldview, which has been increasingly at odds with the individual desires of Iranians. In dealing with these issues, artists have also had to invent new ways to convey meaning whilst under the scrutiny of the regime, resulting in imagery that is frequently couched in metaphor and allegory and often performative in its staged and scripted presentation of the “self”, projecting the self onto quotidian narratives of alterity and dissent by emphasising women’s bodies as sites of social contention upon which discordant visual signifiers compete to criticise State and/or Western-prescribed identities. By scrutinising and resisting such prescribed narratives these artists deconstruct conventional interpretations and epistemological structures and make us question the veracity of these historical accounts, offering in their stead an alternative feminine identity and narrative which is both destabilising and pluralising.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Anna Contadini
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 03 May 2024 14:16

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