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Part 1 Dissertation 2002
Mahdieh Bigdeli Soltani
University of Greenwich | UK
Iranian women with in an Islamic nation

‘Outlaws’ is a study of the condition of Iranian women and an attempt to achieve a better understanding of their struggles to gain basic and essential individual freedoms within the limits they live in. The essay introduces a reading of women in Iran as ‘cultural architects’ and assesses their role of ‘outlaws’ within the social structure that the country has reached after the Islamic Revolution (1977).
"Outlaws" are not women who criticize the limits, and ask for freedom with no boundaries. These are women who admire the limits because of the freedom it gives them as transgressors therefore making them powerful in an Islamic nation. Each of these cultural architects understand the beauty of the limits they transgress. They are known as the transgressors because they are the ones who have grown an intimate relationship with the limit from an early age. They know and love the limit as a prisoner loves its jail keeper.
These women are transgressors but in their own unique manner. With the influence of culture by the neighboring countries, the mix of Islamic and Persian culture, the atmosphere which these women live in has reached an extent where in Iran everyone is perceived to be Muslim and to live by Islamic law, rather than just being Iranian. The reaction to this becomes evident in the emergence of a nationalist spirit, which is growing amongst the younger generations.
Twenty-four years after the Islamic revolution Iran’s future still has not been determined. With more than half the population under 20 and the voting age at 15, the country’s future is in the hand of the younger generation. Yet the lack of proper education on Islam and the presence of the native Persian culture, together with the threat of losing the values to western culture are the concern of the rulers of the country. What remains unanswered is the question of whether the young generation will take Iran’s future back in time to before the revolution, or whether there will be a third place waiting for the young Republic. ‘Outlaws’ focuses on the active and transgressive role taken by Iranian women in this process of change and national re-definition.

Mahdieh Bigdeli Soltani

'Outlaws. Iranian women within an Islamic Nation' was produced as final submission for the third year Degree Dissertation Course. The course encourages students to relate the dissertation subject to the studio work of the year, so that the dissertation and studio reinforce each other in a creative and imaginative way.
‘Outlaws’ is an original analysis of transgression within a specific socio-political context. The investigation analyses the cultural, religious and historical background of the issue, to then focus on the specifics of objects, legislation, filmic representations and personal interpretative accounts. The narrative explores the role of the female body as site of transgression, and the relationship between the body and the city as revealing of the socio-political conditions.
The paper covers an area of investigation that is deeply connected to the student's own background and personal beliefs and experiences, making the already difficult task even more challenging and topical. The result is a critical approach that seeks to establish objectivity and define a clear position, while at the same time challenging the author’s personal beliefs.
The preparation work was carried through with independent investigations, readings, research and field work, and combines a variety of sources, viewpoints, examples and support materials.
The critical contribution of the paper results from an interrogation of the materials through intelligent, independent and articulate questions, formulated without fear to challenge personal beliefs, and social opinions. The originality and complexity of the topic are addressed with independent critical reasoning, and the work is intelligently organised to construct a mature, personal and well argued thesis.

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