In Iran, according to Islamic law, homosexuality is punishable by death. Ironically, sex-change operations are not only legal; they are embraced by a society that accepts male or female but nothing in between. Attracted to members of the same sex, yet forced to deny their true selves, a young generation of men and women adopt the only identity legally allowed for them — transsexual. Socially conditioned and shamed into denying their sexuality, queer youths resort, seemingly willingly, to a most drastic measure: gender-reassignment surgery.
As an Iranian-Armenian-American, my research concerns the literature of the Middle East with a special focus on Persian and Armenian literature. Within Persian literature and culture, my focus is on the members of sexual, ethnic, and religious minority populations, ones marginalized by normative society. I examine topics ranging from the representation of liminal figures such as social, sexual, and religious subalterns and transgressors in medieval Persian Sufi poetry to the taboo-laden sigheh marriages temporary marriage and the representation of the stigmatized sigheh women as sex workers in modern Iranian fiction and film to Iranian-Armenian minority writers and their sense of identity. My work thereby addresses the embodiments of liminality through which authors and directors challenge and critique social hegemonies. My second monograph, Temporary Marriage in Iran: Gender and Body Politics in Modern Iranian Film and Literature Cambridge University Press examines the representation of sigheh temporary marriage in three novels and two short stories from the Pahlavi era and two cinematic works produced after the Islamic Revolution
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