Diasporic Narratives of Sexuality : Identity Formation among Iranian- Swedish Women

University dissertation from Stockholm : Acta Universitatis Stockholmiensis

Abstract: This thesis deals with the sexuality of Iranian women living in Sweden. Considering sexuality as gendered and socio-culturally constructed, I examine the impact of Iranian Islamic discourses, contemporary socialization and migration on women’s narrations of sexuality. The theoretical platform arises from a Foucauldian discursive analysis of sexuality, including Iranian and/or Islamic discourses on sexuality, and diasporic and feminist postcolonial theories. The empirical basis of the thesis consists of ten in-depth interviews with first generation Iranian immigrant women in Sweden. The narratives are the textual field for exploring the divergent and contingent intersections of discourses that constitute the women’s sexuality. Themes that surface in the narratives are the importance of virginity, veiling practices, requirements for modest dress codes, lack of sexual education, first sexual experience, marriage, divorce and diasporic experiences.With sexuality as the main subject of analysis, my focus draws on articulations involving gender, otherness, agency and marginality. Being alert to different (at times contradictory) discourses, I study the tension that develops between the process of (self)disciplining the body and the women’s coping tactics. The study examines the ways women take part in existing institutions while exhibiting agency and creating new ways to negotiate across discourses. This thesis shows how moral values regarding sexual behavior undergo various and sometimes contradictory transformations. The women report being torn between two different cultures. Yet, while consistently facing a crossroads of racist and sexist discourses filled with stereotypes of so-called natives and outsiders, I argue that the women are not caught between two cultures. Rather, they live a hybrid experience of ‘Swedishness,’ ‘Iranianness’ and other social relations. Complexity defines their tactics; the women exist in the interstices of culture(s) and discourses.

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