Reading: Afsaneh Najmabadi — Women with Mustaches and Men without Beards: Gender and Sexual Anxieties of Iranian Modernity

This book has been on my list for ages, so long I can’t even remember where I first read about it. Digging through my archives of every interesting article I’ve read in the past decade (yes, I am that committed to my reading), it seems the likely source was an old Afghanistan / Central Asia blog, Ignoble Savagery, who reviewed Women with Mustaches, Men without Beards in 2008, possibly by way of Registan. I don’t usually get around to buying books that have been on my list for that long, seeing that I tend towards an instantaneous purchasing model.

Nonetheless, seeing that the vast, vast majority of Afghanistan scholarship continues to revolve around ‘Murica!, the Taliban, and comparisons to the Soviet withdrawal in ’89, it’s difficult to get enthusiastic about the region, with the depressing exception of filmmaker Brett Huffman, who is documenting the destruction of one of the world’s greatest archæological sites by a combination of Afghan greed, corruption, and stupidity; and Chinese copper-mining, which in a microcosm exemplifies the past couple of hundred years of Afghanistan and the outside colonial world.

So, Iran. A country I’d love to go to, and far more likely than any of my other wishful places (Kashmir!). I’ve read not very much on the country besides its place in general Central Asian history, and my usual daily reading which is responsible for aforementioned archives. This then, isn’t a work that would constitute a general introduction to the country. Afsaneh Najmabadi (who incidentally lectures on transsexualism in Iran, which makes her interesting to me from more than one field) says in the introduction it’s (paraphrasing here) not a dense academic work but more of a broad ambling through the topic, which is amusing seeing that it has close to four hundred pages of small, dense type.

It’s very interesting indeed, and also manages to give a useful grounding in modern Iran history while discussing its main topic. I’m currently distracted though by another, much swifter read, so this is going to be read over the next month or so.