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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: January 2020

2 - Gendered Violence in Moshfeq-e Kazemi’s Tehran-e Makhuf

from Part II - Representation of Sigheh/Sex Work in the Literature of the Pahlavi Era


Chapter 2 examines Morteza Moshfeq-e Kazemi’s Tehran-e Makhuf (Horrid Tehran), which portrays the corruption of the sociopolitical structure of the country and its impacts on female sexuality, particularly in the context of sigheh and sex work, at the end of the Qajar and early Pahlavi eras. In this novel, we hear the life stories of four female sex workers, among whom two, Ashraf and ‘Effat, reference their sigheh marriages. I argue that Moshfeq-e Kazemi pushes back against the political and social system that supports the practice at that time. By foregrounding the vulnerable socioeconomic status of women, Moshfeq-e Kazemi illustrates the ways that sigheh marriages stigmatize women and allow society to exploit them. I postulate that while these sigheh/sex-worker women are socially marginalized and stigmatized, they occupy a significant space in the social imaginary of Iran that points toward their symbolic and sexual power. I focus on the ways the female body can be a subject of reclaiming power and countering discourses of oppression. Through the embodiment of these sigheh/sex workers, I explore how the female body simultaneously fluctuates as an object of power, a site of social inscription, and a threat to the status quo concerning women’s subjectivity and autonomy.

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