Global Mobility and Subaltern Knowledge: A Transnational Feminist Perspective on Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis

Global Mobility and Subaltern Knowledge: A Transnational Feminist Perspective on Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis

Peitho Volume 25 Issue 1, Fall 2022

Author(s): Azadeh Ghanizadeh

Azadeh Ghanizadeh is a graduate of the Oregon State University School of Writing, Literature, and Film where she studied literature and culture. She received her undergraduate degree in philosophy at the University of Oregon and wrote her honors thesis on women and gender in Islam with an emphasis on anti-colonial Islamic movements. She is broadly interested in social and political philosophy with a focus on globalization, internationalism, and asylum. Her current work examines regimes of transnational mobility and the politics and discourses of international asylum. In this vein, her work views different and contending interpretations of refugee and refugee protection from within a postcolonial studies and transnational feminist framework. She is currently a graduate fellow at Syracuse University’s Composition and Cultural Rhetoric program

Abstract: This article examines the workings of class, ethnicity, and religion as they appear and are obscured in popular writings by Iranian women. Reviewing Marjane Satrapi’s popular memoir, Persepolis, as foremost in an ensemble of works by Iranian diaspora women writing for Western audiences, this article uses a transnational feminist framework to critique the Eurocentric and Islamophobic rhetoric in Persepolis and in its critical reception. Though Persepolis is often viewed as multiculturalist and feminist, the persistence of a Eurocentric and Islamophobic subtext provides insight into how demographic differences in immigration and diaspora spaces are shaped by unchecked capitalist, colonial world markets populated by readers fascinated by stories about migration, exile, and subalterneity. Focusing on representations of the 1979 Islamic revolution, and its aftermath, this article reviews Eurocentric feminism disguised in multiculturalist rhetoric in Persepolis to argue that migration, and stories about it, can create distance and misunderstanding rather than knowledge about far away peoples. Against this reading, Satrapi’s work can generate new insight when placed into comparison with Under the Shadow, in an example of anti-authoritarian and anti-patriarchal critique that avoids the usual orientalist and colonialist depictions of Islam and Muslims so typical when the topic in question is the Middle East and its peoples. In this diaspora film, patriarchal colonialism and masculinist Islam are simultaneously critiqued for their relational and mutually constitutive character leaving out the Eurocentric rhetoric in Persepolis and adjacent texts.

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This article examines the effects of global economic disparities between states on the production and reception of popular contemporary writings by Iranian women. Focusing on works by Iranian women in diaspora as staples in multiculturalist education geared toward worldly Western readers, this article re-reads Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis through a transnational feminist framework to contextualize the historical struggles that inform the enthusiasm for this work[1]. As part of a larger pattern of diaspora writing by Iranian women, Persepolis is meant to convey the culture and character of Middle Eastern people to Western audiences who wish to engage, in good faith, in multiculturalist exchange across distance and difference. Falling short of this promise, however, Persepolis is laced with subtle Eurocentric rhetoric presenting as class bias, Islamophobia, and appeals to ‘white feminism’[2]. While diaspora writings by Iranian women are widely read with enthusiasm for their apparently progressive offerings, a transnational feminist reading can highlight how global and local syncretism can, in this case, increase misunderstanding and bias rather than create knowledge about distant peoples. Far from removing this work from study, however, Persepolis should be re-read for the critical insight it can provide into the vagaries of multiculturalism and the inequities that persist in the aftermath of European colonialism and its globalizing markets. Despite being a popular text in American and European higher education, Persepolis is a class-inflected work read as class-neutral by a readership that attempts to address global colonial inequalities through narrative discourse without paying enough attention to the historical struggles that create them. To address some of these misconnections, a transnational feminist re-reading can provide insight into how global market dynamics between states can influence literary production and audience reception. In sum, despite being an exemplar of work that signifies the humanist and anti-racist bona fides of the academic humanities and women’s studies, Persepolis is distinctly Islamophobic and Eurocentric in ways that implicate economic class within nations and market dynamics between them as historical struggles are translated into neutral narratives of migration and exile. 

What happens when American academic institutions, motivated by progressive values, wish to encounter Middle Eastern subjects as a pathway to becoming more worldly readers (Fisk 44)?[3] Marjane Satrapi, along with others like Azar Nafisi and Azadeh Moaveni, are best-selling Iranian women authors in the economically dominant, or Western, world. Their works often appear in college writing classes and feminist rhetorics anthologies: “in the U.S. alone, Persepolis appears on about 250 university syllabi” (Chute 137). Why is there such enthusiasm for this work among Western readers when it is banned in Iran? Perhaps the popularity of these stories suggests a preference on the part of Western readers for narratives that feature characters whose differences are buffered by resemblances – in this case, class and its attendant ethnic and religious features. In other words, in Persepolis, we are faced with a literary figure who is different, to be sure, but the difference in question is a kind of “difference within sameness,” or difference that is palatable (Iranian) but not excessive (Muslim) (Puar 25)[4]. 

Analyzing this work at the nexus of literature on one side and economic and historical struggle on the other to “foreground the concerns of people who have been the most marginalized in social and cultural life,” can tell us a great deal about how global literature, rather than uniting distant people, provides citizens of similar geopolitical status a way of exchanging discourse across national borders in an act of solidarity that can reify the very processes of hegemony that reading such literature is seen as subverting (Stone-Mediatore 128). With Persepolis, global literature provides a cathartic release for educated, liberal readers benefitting from uneven political and economic arrangements that, ultimately, allow them to profit from the consequences of colonialism. To understand these transnational entanglements, it is important to recognize how historical, political, and economic structures influence the shaping of migration narratives. For example, the Iranian diaspora is largely homogenous. Hailing from the Northern provinces, often light-skinned, and often members of the middle or upper classes, Persepolis gives a reading of the 1979 revolution that glosses over the anti-colonial and egalitarian elements of this event suggesting that certain ideological alliances, informed by class and ethnic status, influence this perspective (Parrillo 121). Asking why this memoir is so popular among Western readers means recognizing that the audience it addresses is similarly composed of market-dominant ethnic elite readers who come across Persepolis in college language and women’s studies classes[5]. In such venues, connection across difference is seen as an antidote to the unequal economic dynamics between first and third-world countries[6]. However, instead of creating the kind of ‘bridge building’ that addresses these distances, Persepolis does the opposite and solidifies class alliances across national borders under the auspices of literature and women’s studies.  

Recalling that migration is informed by specific colonial processes unfolding within specific colonial zones of influence, the connection between anti-Islamic sentiments and classist attitudes in Persepolis provides insight into how global and local syncretism can create disconnect rather that unity. Recalling that current members of the Iranian diaspora, who are often categorically opposed to the 1979 revolution and Islam, are composed of distinct Iranian classes and attendant ethnic groups suggests that the anti-Islamic consensus in these writings is tied to a perspective that is informed by market-dominant ethnic elite status. Let it be stated, immediately, that the failures of the Islamic revolution are legion and that the current regime in Iran is corrupt in countless ways, but the revolution did attempt, through popular consensus, to meet the promises of a modern, democratic republic in ways that even drew the attention of embittered Western philosophers like Michel Foucault, who met with the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1978[7]. In the spirit of re-reading Persepolis as a graphic nonfiction text firmly situated within history, this study reviews several examples of Islamophobic rhetoric present throughout the text and concludes with a counter-text by Babak Anvari engaging the same themes as Satrapi’s memoir (the effects of the Islamic revolution on the lives of Iranians and especially on the lives of women) without reifying Eurocentric ideological paradigms. Anvari’s Under the Shadow presents serious challenges for comparison as a film being contrasted with a graphic novel; however, both texts focus on the same historical moment and explore similar themes all in distinctly visual terms making them sufficiently tied together to warrant comparison. With these elements in mind, the following examples of Eurocentric rhetoric in Persepolis suggest that the creation and consumption of popular diaspora writing by Iranian women indicates a discursive alliance between market-dominant ethnic elites communicating across national borders. 

Islamophobia in Iranian Women’s Diaspora Writing: The Case of Persepolis  

While Persepolis is part of a larger pattern of texts written by Iranian women in diaspora, it is noteworthy both for its prominence in literary and feminist studies across the United States and for its graphic representation of the lives of Iranians, especially its women. It is important to emphasize the visual nature of this work since Islamic practices and philosophies are known for their habits of concealment and covering (including various Islamic head coverings), a tradition that continues to baffle, and fixate, Western viewers who long to uncover the Middle East. Especially its women. In an example of pandering to this tendency, the visual representation of Iran in Persepolis, notably, begins with a chapter ominously titled The Veil[8]

Figure 1: Page 3 of Persepolis Pantheon Books, New York, 2007. The figure includes a black and white illustration of a woman’s face cropped out of sight except for the right eye illustrated next to the words “The Veil” in all capital letters.

With this opening move, Satrapi introduces the 1979 Islamic revolution using the politically charged and often orientalist image of the veil. Considering the intended audience, whose imagination is undoubtedly saturated with assumptions about women, gender, and Islam, Western readers are introduced to the Islamic revolution in a familiar iconography that likely evokes certain ideas in the minds of Western readers about fundamentalism and clashing civilizations[9].

Figure 2: Page 6 of Persepolis. The figure includes a black and white illustration split in half and featuring a young girl in the center. Directly above her there is black text on a white background. On her right side, her hair is uncovered, and she wears a white long-sleeved shirt. Here, there is a black background with images of white gears, a ruler, and a hammer. On left side, her hair and body are covered and against a white background there are black geometrical, floral shapes.

Folded into this opening move, Satrapi goes on to present two sides of herself from a child’s perspective as she reflects on the revolution. On one side she is unveiled and surrounded by a ruler, a hammer, and gears implying modernity and on the other side is veiled and surrounding by ornate, geometric shapes indicating religion/tradition. She remarks, “I didn’t know what to think about the veil, deep down I was very religious but as a family we were very modern and avant-garde (6).” The implication is that veils and religion are non-modern (a refusal to progress forward into the present) and that religion/tradition lacks any world-making potential. The implication being that to be unveiled is to be measured, rational, and decidedly modern, while to be veiled is its opposite. The articulation we encounter here, of modernity and religion as two discrete and mutually exclusive categories, is not an innocent or facile rendering but, in fact, indexes a profound Eurocentricity (Asad 14; Can Non-Europeans Think? Dabashi 222). Aside from this, the reduction of the Islamic revolution into a mere matter of religious sentiment or cultural motivation erases the more urgent material conditions and anti-colonial resistance that was far more central to the founding of the republic than head scarves. As part of a larger pattern of stories written by market-dominant ethnic elite Iranian women who write for their Western counterparts in highly legible terms, Satrapi’s illustration of tradition and modernity smacks of civilizational discourse and, in ways that will be outlined further, attempts to humanize Iranians by excising their connection to Islam. 

As a graphic memoir, Satrapi’s account presents the thoughts and feelings of a child caught in a revolutionary moment. As such, historically precise portraits cannot be expected from such an account. However, Satrapi does declare in the preface of Persepolis that this is an attempt to clear up misconceptions about Iranians: “writing Persepolis was so important to me. I believe that an entire nation should not be judged by the wrongdoings of a few extremists (1).” While precision cannot be expected of a work of art, the representation of events in this memoir outlines a specific goal: to dispel misconceptions about Iranians and, as it turns out, their relationship to Islam. Persepolis is one striking example of a multiculturalist work read for its ethos of so-called bridge-building and its promise of unity a “contact zone”; however, a reading focused on class reveals the workings of political economy in the shaping of the Islamic revolution and its transnational links to the international politics of the American academy (Pratt 8)[10]. In other words, Persepolis is an example of a discursive, class-based alliance between the “global coalition of dominant groups” that exist in both First and Third-World contexts (Prashad 278). One striking example of this appears in Satrapi’s use of Western popular culture to convey the similarity of Iranians to the West against the dissimilarity of Muslims to the same. To understand this attempt at strategic union through strategic separation, it is important to contextualize the historical moment out of which the Islamic revolution emerged: the Cold War. As scholars have noted, the triumph of the war against the Soviet agenda marked the beginning of the rise of an elite class of citizens in former colonies and semi-colonies who acted as agents of colonialism for personal gain (Class and Nation Amin 136; Al Ahram Dabashi 44; Prashad 278). In the case of Iran prior to the revolution, the United States and Britain influenced the formation of a social order composed of middle and upper-class Iranians who benefited from the colonial presence and were thus unsurprisingly more receptive to the culture of the West compared to other classes who saw their situation worsen after the arrival of British and American trade[11]. Satrapi’s aim in this work to dispel harmful views about Iranians by invoking the so called wrongdoings of a few extremists camouflages the important class-based struggles that informed the revolution and undoubtedly resonates with her target audience who are barraged with media rhetoric about presumed Muslim extremists[12].  

Again, though the Islamic revolution failed on many grounds, the material dynamics between Iran (and similarly suited Third-World nations) and the British and American corporations that ruthlessly exploited its natural resources are often glossed over by Iranian women writing in diaspora[13]. The argument outlined suggests that class interests inform Satrapi’s account of the Islamic revolution in a memoir rightly praised for its gorgeously illustrated graphic depictions of an important historical moment. However, the popularity of Persepolis and its status as the foremost text depicting Iran as “an ordinary Iranian girlhood” obscures some important elements involved in the revolution indicating “an association of social interests” between the dominant groups of disparate nations in the name of literature and feminism (Chute 136; Quijano 166)[14]. In both the memoir and its film adaptation, the 1979 revolution is illustrated as a takeover by bearded goons and veiled, serpent-like revolutionary women targeting American pop culture. In an example of pandering to elite, Western reading audiences, such imagery says little about the targeting of such icons and what that has to do with economic imperialism and, instead, illustrates these events as random bursts of anti-Western sentiment. In this case, Western audiences seek connections with Iranians based on their mutuality (never their difference) and based on their mutual consumption of American popular culture products. There is no discussion as to why these commercial products ended up in Iran and other Third-World nations in the first place. Again, while precision cannot be demanded of a work of art the consistent concealment of economic class dynamics, and Western corporate trade within Iran, as well as its translation outside of Iran suggests a pattern. Namely, categorically anti-Islamic narratives from homogenous diaspora spaces do not dispel harmful misconceptions about Iranians; instead, they displace harmful ideas about Iranians onto Islam and Muslims.  

Figure 3: Page 132-133 of Persepolis Pantheon Books, New York, 2007. The first frame is illustrated in black with two figures etched against this background. One is a salesman wearing a long black coat carrying contraband and stating “110 Tumans” in response to a young Marji who stands beside him asking, “how much?” Above them, a line of text reads, “I bought two tapes: Kim Wilde and Camel” in all capital letters. The second frame illustrates this same scene with a young Marji departing with a set of tapes


Figure 4: Page 132-133 of Persepolis Pantheon Books, New York, 2007. The frame on the left illustrates Marji walking down a street in Tehran with a text box above her head reading. “We’re the kinds in America…whoa” in all capital letters as a group of revolutionary guards (women) clad in Islamic veils advance upon her, pointing. The second frame shows Marji apprehended by the women while she looks into in the direction of the audience. A text box at the top of the second frame reads “You! Stop!” uttered by the guards accompanied by another text box at the bottom of the frame reading, “They were guardians of the revolution, the women’s branch. This group had been added in 1982, to arrest women who were improperly veiled. (Like me, for example).”


Figure 5: Page 134 of Persepolis Pantheon Books, New York, 2007. The frame on the left contains a cassette with a tape being inserted accompanied by a text box at the top of the frame stating, “I got off pretty easy considering. The Guardians of the revolution didn’t find my tapes.” The second text box illustrates Marji dancing to the music from the cassette with a text box at the bottom of the frame reading, “to each his own way of calming down.” A text bubble in zigzag shape at the top of the frame reads, “We’re the kids in America…whoao.”

The above images show a young Satrapi searching for contraband, like a fugitive, dodging Islamic revolutionary guards and their seizure of such goods. In former colonies and semi-colonies, consumption of Western media, like skin bleaching, is imbricated with class and economic dynamics informed by global colonialism which, in the case of the Middle East, is also very often connected to patterns of religious belief. In Iran, post-revolutionary measures taken to rehabilitate native culture to rebuild Iran after the ravages of colonial theft are illustrated as random acts of Islamic authoritarianism. Such a depiction, in all its dramatic pathos, will resonate with an audience who will react positively to the image of a young Iranian girl yearning for American popular culture goods as if the scene is untouched by colonialism and its structures of harm and gain. In this example of an Iranian girl opposing “extremism” by resisting an Islamic boogeyman, the echoes of Islamophobic and Eurocentric rhetoric emanate in the undue focus on culture and religion—a position that parallels the famous ‘clash of civilizations’ thesis that has been thoroughly discredited for its obscuring of economic and political forces that underlie regional tensions[15].   

While Satrapi’s illustration of ominous revolutionary women and their bearded male counterparts working to eject Western consumer products from the Islamic republic provides one view of this pandering, another perspective appears in Robert E. Looney’s Economic Origins of the Iranian Revolution. In this version of events, Western collusion with Iranian ruling classes, and the instability it produced, led to conditions of scarcity whereby “two-thirds of the agricultural population,” according to Looney, “faced poor nutritional intake” (45)[16]. The second perspective suggests that this revolution, like many revolutions, was about bread and not women’s veiling practices or popular culture. When brutal monarchies are overthrown in Iran or even places like Haiti, for example, the story is not so aspirational as when one would find such revolutionary stories in French or American history. There is little sympathy for popular uprisings and expressions of the democratic will of a people when the people in question are defending their sovereignty in the language of Islam and when they are placed in a global racial hierarchy consonant with economic and political self-determination, or in this case, the lack thereof[17].

Satrapi’s account does not provide anything close to a nuanced perspective of why Iranians took to the streets in droves to overthrow a colonial puppet regime and shatter the iconography associated with it. What she does provide is a look at the revolution from the eyes of an ethnically elite Iranian residing in France, in Satrapi’s case, and addressing audiences in former colonial centers where her memoir continues to garner enthusiasm (Ansari and Parillo 122). Yet again, class tensions within Iran and larger colonial dynamics outside Iran inform the anti-Western sentiment seen during the 1979 revolution and the smashing of Western consumer products. Despite seriously glossing over these important details explaining why American popular culture is banned in Iran, Satrapi does make some brief comments about the rigid class systems motivating the revolution. For example, in the chapter titled “The Letter,” Satrapi chronicles her housekeepers love affair with her neighbor’s son who, Satrapi says, “like most peasants, […] didn’t know how to read and write (35).” The figure in question became Satrapi’s family servant when she was just eight years old and is caught breaking across class lines in this chapter.  

Figure 6: Page 34 of Persepolis Pantheon Books, New York, 2007. This figure contains five frames in black and white with capital letters. The top left frame has an image of a young girl with an arrow pointing to her stating, “her,” “this is Mehri.” The second figure illustrates a scene in rural Iran featuring Mehri’s parents handing over Mehri to Satrapi’s family as a servant. The third frame shows a young Mehri looking after an infant Satrapi. The third shows the same scene in a playground. The last scene shows Satrapi and Mehri sitting at a table eating with a text box stating, “she always finished my food.”

At a certain point, the maid is caught carrying on a flirtation with the neighbor until Satrapi’s parents find out and put an end to the relationship saying, “in this country, you must stay within your own social class (34).  

Figure 7: Page 37 of Persepolis Pantheon Books, New York, 2007. This figure contains two frames. The one on the left shows Marji speaking with her father in her bedroom as they discuss class dynamics. Her father says, “you must understand that their love was impossible.” The second frame shows Marji and her father disagreeing about the inflexible nature of class lines in Iran with two text boxes: one from Marji stating, “why is that” and one with her father’s response, “because in this country you must stay within your own social class.”

Explaining the importance of maintaining rigid class lines in Iran, this scene illustrates the issues resting at the heart of many revolutionary struggles: inequality and exploitation. While one generation reinforces these class divides, a young Marji questions them, providing readers a glimpse into another very different story buried in the iconic memoir—one that is not captured in the idea of dispelling myths about Iranians by denouncing the ‘wrongdoings of a few extremists.’ 

While recognizing how the Islamic revolution in Iran, and popular stories about it, are informed by economic class dynamics, both within and between nations, it is important to also note that ethnicity, and especially religion, are deeply inflected by class in the context of many Middle Eastern countries and communities. Iran, like many places in the contemporary world, is a region influenced by contemporary racial classifications systems and what Rey Chow calls the “ascendency of whiteness” (Puar 200)[18].

Figure 8: Page 132-133 of Persepolis Pantheon Books, New York, 2007. This figure depicts seven characters at a grocery store in a moment of tension. The figure furthest on the left states, “Southern women are all whores” while a retreating figure in the center states, “it’s terrible what you’re saying.”

An example of this appears in the chapter titled “The Jewels” describing an interaction in a grocery store in the northern city of Tehran during the Iran/Iraq war when Southern Iranians fled the war to find shelter in the North. Like many nation-states, Iran is populated by different ethnic groups, and Southern Iranians are viewed as darker skinned than their Northern counterparts. In this scene, the statement “anyway, as everyone knows: ‘Southern women are all whores,’” is made with all due rhetorical force conveying the kinds of internal ethnic and class hierarchies that persist, always, in reference to European colonization (93). These conceptions of ethnicity, tied to class, do not disappear in diaspora spaces. For instance, the ethnically ambiguous term “Persian,” at best used to hide the more Islamically charged “Iranian” and at worst tied to a notorious Aryan discourse, is sometimes used by Iranians who strategically support the idealization of whiteness[19]. It is important to note the manner in which class, ethnicity, and religion shift and mutate across borders and distances to reappear, later, in economically-dominant host nations (mired in their own racial dynamics) only to form unexpected alliances in literary and feminist attempts to address borders and distances. What follows is a fusion of power, based in class status, across national borders and between market-dominant ethnic elites who are educated enough to recognize their own dominant status in the global colonial order of things and what that means for far-away others (Fisk 179)[20].   

Satrapi’s conjuring up of a foreign friend to help assuage anxieties about inter-state conflicts and exploitation is asymmetrically mirrored in American foreign policy which, as David Harvey notes, is so often in the business of conjuring up a foreign enemy during times of domestic tension (Applebaum and Robinson 94). As noted, the fleeing ruling classes in pre-revolutionary Iran now reside in America as minorities and hold a palpable and categorical anti-Islamic attitude toward not just the Islamic Republic but Islam as such (Ansari and Parillo 122). Some of them even collaborate with the Department of Defense and call, publicly, for open warfare against the Iranian regime[21]. The economic undertones that shape these tensions are left unexplored since they point inevitably to past and present colonial policies by British and American corporations and the governments that back them, as well, it should be noted, as the constituents who benefit from these arrangements. Class elements are left unexplored, however, as both Persepolis and other bestselling works by Iranian women consistently focus on clerical authoritarianism in highly legible terms (veils and facile remarks about modernity and traditionalism) as they address Western reading audiences[22]. An example of this appears in one scene involving the hospitalization of Satrapi’s uncle, who tries to get official permission to leave the newly formed Islamic republic for medical reasons. In this scene, his wife is enraged at finding her former domestic servant who, because of the Islamic revolution and its reordering of classes, is now dictating the life and death of the formerly upper classes: 

Figure 9: Page 121 of Persepolis Pantheon Books, New York, 2007. This figure contains three frames featuring five characters. Marji, her parents, her aunt, and a hospital administrator. The first and second frame shows a conversation between Aunt Firouzeh and the administrator in which approval for foreign travel is denied. The third frame illustrates the family, minus the administrator, reviewing this result with outrage.

Contempt for the lower classes, and a sense of their having a rightful place, is sharply apparent in Aunt Firouzeh’s frustration, which is informed by attachments to an Iranian economy arranged by British and U.S trade agreements dividing Iranians along class lines[23]. As such, Satrapi’s account of the revolution does not present “Tales from an Ordinary Iranian Girlhood” as subheadings have suggested but rather illustrates “an association of social interests” between the dominant groups of disparate nations in the name of literature and feminism (Chute 136; Quijano 166)[24]. 

The argument outlined suggests that Persepolis provides an example of how global literature, under the auspices of multiculturalism, can obscure certain, perhaps more unsavory, differences while accentuating other, more palatable ones: that is, by presenting a class-inflected historical moment as class-neutral. In this case, as other scholars have noted, this version of events is linked to different and contending versions of global mobility—who can move across national borders and who cannot—and the colonial market dynamics which enable or enclose those movements. As Maboud Ansari notes, most Iranians in diaspora are “upwardly-mobile, ethnically homogenous Iranian emigres who are the demographic majority in the West” (Ansari and Parillo 121). Recalling that in Iranian and other Middle East contexts, patterns of Islamic and secular belief often run parallel to economic class standing meaning that Satrapi’s narration, as a diaspora Iranian, is fittingly anti-Islamic.

Critical Responses to Persepolis: Class, Culture, and Revolutionary Struggle. 

Immigrants and diaspora subjects do not automatically populate universities and literary environments with progressive values. Instead, they can sometimes reinforce imperial power and bias through discursive alliances centered around class interests. While these elements are apparent in Persepolis itself, they are also echoed in secondary readings of Satrapi’s work by critics who invoke it to confirm what they suspected all along: that the conflict in Iran is not yet another instance of the United States strong-arming Third-World nations into conditions of production and exchange that vastly favor the United States. Instead, they would suggest that the conflict in Iran has much to do with amiable cultural exchange being thwarted by Islamic fundamentalists. In “Rewriting the West in Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis,” Typhaine Leservot remarks, “Western products and cultural references abound in Satrapi’s Iran. Marji, her character, listens to popular western music, wears western-style clothes, goes to parties, and […] rebels against her parents and society like any western teen” (115). Evidently, to see Iranians as human, we must “highlight how westernized Iranians are (ibid).” Ignoring the economic relations behind the presence of the Western consumer products she lists, and what they ultimately point to (imperialism), Leservot goes on to make the case for Occidentalism as an underexplored analytic framework[25]. We are left to wonder how Leservot approaches contemporary Middle East/U.S relations in her position as director of “Muslim Studies” at Wesleyan University. In a similar focus to that of Satrapi, Leservot’s emphasis on culture and religion obscures the relations of exchange and inequality that create the kinds of crises she is rightly exploring in this work[26].   

Despite its success in describing the time in question in striking illustrations, Satrapi’s account of the 1979 revolution inspires simplistic readings about this event which land on familiar Eurocentric and Islamophobic ground. Despite an admirable attempt to reflect on important topics, Mary Ostby, like Leservot, reviews the “stereotype-defying” memoir as an exemplar of diversity and indeed cites Leservot to argue that the crisis leading up to the revolution was not anti-colonial in nature, “contrary to any notion of the Islamic revolution as a historical rupture, Iranian culture is the product of mutually constitutive contact in which it both shaped and was shaped by other cultures—both Western and non-Western (570). In what Elysium realm is any nation of the Third-World, in this case Iran, engaged in “mutually constitutive contact” is a mystery considering historical facts indicating otherwise[27].  The impulse to screen the realities of colonial theft and meddling between vastly unequal states may be rooted in a yearning for connection, or even a yearning for atonement, tied to the realization of one’s own position on the benefiting side of the colonial divide. The intention fails it promise, however, as indicated by critical readings that are congruent with Satrapi’s account of the revolution captured in her framing in the preface about the difference between Iranians and “a few extremists.” 

Perhaps no other critical response is as intensely filtered through a Eurocentric lens as Gloria Steinem’s endorsement on the back cover of the text, hailing Persepolis as having “the intimacy of a memoir, the irresistibility of a comic book, and the political depth of a conflict between fundamentalism and democracy.” It is important to note that Steinem, a famous feminist author, was once a paid employee of the Central Intelligence Agency, whose notorious campaigns against Third-World governments and economies are well-documented and critiqued[28]. Steinem’s characterization resonates with the way global literature is read and written by often dominant economic and ethnic groups across national borders who communicate across distances and unite, ultimately, around class interests[29]. In this case, Eurocentric rhetoric in Persepolis “capture[s] the interplay of market dynamics, power relations, and social forces that cut across borders,” in contrast with the multicultural ethics and feminist values such works are meant to convey (Appelbaum and Robinson 21). In sum, telling tales about ethnic ‘others’ in humanities and women’s studies classes across the United States has the effect of obscuring—not disclosing—what ‘others’ are like. As global economies continue to orbit around colonial relations of exchange, and global politics are shaken by the conflicts these relations produce, global literature and feminist rhetoric (inadvertently) disguise the effects of uneven development in ways that point toward religious and cultural differences rather than material conditions.  

While diasporic spaces do hold promise, it is important to be aware of the adverse consequences of transnational migration when diasporas are often shaped by race and class differences and borders selectively filter welcome and unwelcome entrants. The forces that enable the movement of international students are very different from those that enable the movement of other kinds of migrants with other stories to tell. These differences can manifest in especially harmful ways when considering the intensity of economic differences between First and Third-World states. This is not to suggest, however, that global inequalities have surpassed North/South binaries, or that wealth and power are not concentrated along the same old colonial lines. This does suggest, however, that established colonial patterns have fissured into elaborate subdivisions, feeding into new and emerging alliances between market-dominant ethnic elite writers in Third-World countries and their market-dominant ethnic elite reading audiences in Western contexts. In these cases, well-meaning readers end up simply looking back at themselves in a yet another example of subaltern speech unrealized. In sum, the emphasis on culture and religion erases the fingerprints of colonialism—which mark the contemporary crises facing both Iran and the Middle East as well as the larger Third-World in a global economic system that continues to orbit around past and present theft of resources and military domination. In this vein, the subtlety of Satrapi’s anti-Islamic rhetoric has gone unnoticed by audiences and critics and academics who repeat her Eurocentric biases in their readings of this famous memoir. Against these readings, the following section provides a counter-text that addresses the consolidation of power by the authoritarian clerical faction in Iran while folding this assessment into a critique of ongoing colonialism and its effects on Iranian social development.  

Lessons in Feminist Criticism: Babak Anvari’s Under the Shadow.  

While primarily responding to economic imperialism, the Islamic revolution also intervenes in a global media climate dominated by Western knowledge and representation. Few would deny that the Islamic revolution fell short of its many promises, but it did succeed in shifting consumer-producer relations between the West and Iran in the domain of media and film. Iranian films have become a major player in the world of global cinema, doing the much-needed work of demonstrating that other regions of the world do, in fact, think, “the anti-Western politics of the post-revolutionary Islamic state enabled a reversal of the filmic flow, which used to move from the West into Iran, so it now moves out from Iran” (Moallem 27). It is important to note that it is precisely the Islamic, anti-western, censorship laws enacted by the post-revolutionary regime, and their insistence on films drawing material only from local sources, that has decentered the Western gaze and its attendant political, economic, and epistemic hegemonies. 

Having discussed the subtle Eurocentric rhetoric underlying critiques of Islam in popular and academic writing by Iranian women, I now turn to a counterexample of feminist critique addressing similar issues as those of Persepolis (the rise of masculinist, clerical Islam among other post-revolutionary failures) in a film titled Under the Shadow. A 2016 Iranian diaspora film written and directed by Babak Anvari, Under the Shadow is a horror story set in the immediate aftermath of the revolution during the height of the Iran/Iraq war. Set in Tehran, Under the Shadow critiques Islamic veiling laws enacted after the revolution. The shadow, in this case, refers to both mandatory veiling and continued colonial interference in Iran which destabilizes Iranian sovereignty in the midst of the Iran/Iraq war. This film successfully weaves anti-imperialist and anti-patriarchal critique together by situating the problems of this age into a story about a haunting featuring an entity from Islamic theology known as djinn. The djinn in this case is presented in an Islamic veil, or chador, that reflects anxieties about the role of religion, spirituality, and native consciousness in a society forced into modernity by a violent and dominating power[30]. Post-revolutionary anxieties about the role of religion in society are a common theme in this film which features the arrival of the demon (djinn) immediately after an American bomb punctures the roof of an apartment building where the main characters live. In other words, the arrival of the djinn reflects both the contemporary spiritual crisis haunting Iranian social consciousness and the colonial forces that shape them.  

Under the Shadow opens with Shideh, a young mother, learning that her university appeal process has been denied and that she is barred from attendance because of her political activism during the Islamic revolution. Shideh, a revolutionary who remains in Iran after 1979, sits across from a cleric and arbitrator who tells her, in harsh and uncompromising terms, that she will not be admitted to university. In a scene showcasing the multivocal character of the revolutionary movement (two different and contending revolutionary actors find themselves on opposite sides of the newly born Islamic republic), Shideh is excluded from university, perhaps, it is implied, because she is a woman. This critique repeats in other, subtler, examples of misogynistic thinking presented throughout the film. For example, Shideh’s landlord accuses her of failing to lock a garage door, implying that because she is the only women in the building who drives a car, it must be her negligence causing the problem. Later on, Shideh’s husband makes a vague claim about how Shideh is neglectful of their daughter, Dorsa, and should behave in a more conventionally motherly fashion. Under the Shadow portrays the many faces of sexism in a society that questions woman’s competence in every area of life, whether private or public, and maps the contradictions and absurdities of patriarchy while also depicting how these sexist views are informed by, and multiplied by, incessant colonialist meddling. 

In this sense, the film draws on, and therefore affirms, indigenous theologies and mythologies to perform a dual critique of patriarchal versions of Islam and always/already patriarchal colonialism. The missile, which initiates the haunting, does not detonate and, in the ensuing chaos, Shideh’s daughter, Dorsa, tells her mom that she saw an apparition. Once the missile is removed, it leaves a rupture in the ceiling. This becomes the place of entry and exit for the djinn who initiates a campaign of fitna against Shideh and Dorsa. The Islamic notion of fitna, referring to civil strife, originates in the first civil war in the history of Islam, the one that erupted soon after the death of the prophet (PBUH), and is an event which continues to haunt the Ummah through ongoing Shia/Sunni tensions[31]. It is important to note that the Iran/Iraq war broke out two years after the Islamic revolution when Saddam Hussain made territorial claims on Iran’s oil-rich Khuzestan province, aided by the Reagan administration, which armed both Iran and Iraq during this conflict—a textbook example of fitna—prolonging and amplifying a war that killed hundreds of thousands of Iranians and Iraqis. Paralleling the fitna that the Reagan administration stirred between Iran and Iraq, the djinn hides Dorsa’s doll and starts telling Dorsa that her mom has taken it away. The djinn also hides Shideh’s workout cassette, which Shideh later finds in the garbage, implicating Dorsa as the only other person in the house. The sowing of fitna, or civil unrest, in this household alludes to the strategic and calculated fitna imposed on Iran and Iraq by the Reagan administration and, thus, performs a double-edged critique of patriarchal imperialism from outside and sexist bias from within. While Under the Shadow critiques sexist oppression in post-revolutionary Iran by focusing, in some sense, on the private sphere, it folds the narrative into a larger social and historical event, showcasing the impact of imperialist intrusion on internal social development.  

As the djinn’s aggressions escalate, Shideh flees her home forgetting to wear the now-mandatory Islamic veil. She is promptly picked up by revolutionary guards and sent to jail where she is reminded of her main duty in life by yet another cleric: to guard her modesty. They send her home where Shideh, pushed back into the private sphere, returns to an escalated haunting; the djinn takes her daughter Dorsa. Shideh throws herself into the attack, creating, perhaps, the most visually striking scene in the film where the protagonist is shown drowning in the fabric of an Islamic veil. This heavy-handed symbolism makes a clear statement about women’s struggles in the Islamic republic while avoiding critiques that center and justify Eurocentrism and, perhaps most importantly, acknowledges the influence of colonialism. Anchoring its critique in native ideas and mythologies, this diaspora film, despite not being under censorship by the Islamic Republic, nonetheless avoids the kind of Eurocentric critique we see in Persepolis. In its very title, Under the Shadow, suggest a dual-critique of internal sexism and external patriarchal imperialism highlighting how women’s situation in post-revolutionary Iran is always informed by both: the shadow is a demonic entity haunting the splitting of society into public and private spheres; the shadow is an American-made missile sold through Israeli channels. When placed into conversation with a work like Under the Shadow, Persepolis can provide a great deal of insight into the many layers of complexity that inform U.S/Middle East relations and thus meet the promises of cosmopolitan liberalism with much greater force than as a stand-alone text.


This article presents Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis as a case study illustrating how literature produced by Iranian writers in diaspora is often read as an exercise in progressive, liberal education served with good multicultural intentions. Reading Persepolis, instead, for what it says about the structure and function of international migration vis-à-vis global colonial markets can tell us a great deal about how religion in the Middle East is always imbricated with ethnicity and class—and how that manifests in diaspora spaces. This, in addition to the increasingly securitized regulation of who gets to cross borders and what kinds of stories get to be told about border crossing, can provide readers with lessons in feminist criticism and the misunderstandings and distances that can occur regardless of good intentions[32].

Despite the anti-Islamic consensus in Iranian women’s writings, and its ties to class and ethnicity in the Middle East, readers of such works continue to view difference and inclusion in purely visual terms lacking the depth of analysis that can come with attention to historical context (Sara Ahmed 173). In the case of Iranian diaspora writings and scholarship, and in recognition of the rhetoric of multiculturalism and its failures, it is important to note that migratory flow from the global south does not inherently reduce inequity, but in a seemingly paradoxical move, can sometimes strengthen it. In Satrapi’s work, important class differences, always tied to market-dominant ethnic status, dictates transnational movement. These differences are not readily visible to someone unfamiliar with class-based (and thus ethnic and religious) stratification in Iran and its specific manifestations during the time and place in question. In Satrapi’s border-crossing, we see how certain kinds of migrant interaction with host nations differs based on economic or citizenship status—an international student traveler vastly differs from a humanitarian entrant, for instance[33]. These differences in kinds and categories of migration express the carefully managed nature of borders and how population control mechanisms influence art and literary culture without the awareness of readers and critics. Arguably, in the case of Persepolis, global literature serves as a platform on which dominant groups form communicative alliances across national borders and assuage shared anxieties about their own complicities in benefiting from an uneven global market. As a reward for such effort, and in the case of authors like Satrapi, safe passage is granted to certain kinds of migrants while enclosure prevents the entry of others. In addition to serving transnational economic alliances, national borders also serve the ongoing alliances of power within the United States in favor of ruling ethnic groups by avoiding tipping the demographic scales too far in the direction of minoritized peoples whose perspectives might disrupt the contemporary American social order.  

In this vein, proponents of anti-racist and, of course, feminist teaching and learning concerned with the ongoing effects of racialization may read this literary text for the subtle Eurocentric rhetoric apparent in it to study what kinds of structures it reflects. What I suggest in this article is not to abandon this work—quite the contrary—what I suggest is that we update our reading of this text with counter examples like Under the Shadow to shed further light on the political and historical dimensions of how a story like this comes to be told in the first place. As scholars of world literature note, readers now have unprecedented connection to the writings of peoples in distant regions, but understanding has not caught up at the same speed of connection. With certain geopolitical updates in mind, we can read Persepolis for its expression of the cultural politics of globalization and the complexities presented in the figure of the migrant writer.  

End Notes

[1] ‘Western’ in this article is consonant with my use of the term ‘Third-World,’ stressing the vast economic differences between, broadly speaking, regions of the world separated by the divisions created in the wake of the ‘age of discovery.’ For further elaboration, please see note number 6.  

[2] My usage of Islamophobia is aligned, broadly, as “dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims, especially as a political force” (Oxford 2020). 

[3] Gloria Fisks’s 2018 Orhan Pamuk and the Good of World Literature outlines the persistent misunderstandings created by a literary readership attempting to build connections across differenceUltimately, Fisk argues that there is a great deal of bad faith thinking involved in these attempts leaving almost nothing knowledgeable for readers of such works. 

[4] In her work, Terrorist AssemblagesJasbir Puar describes the workings of the necropolitical carousel operating in the modern world today and argues that one distinctive feature of this machinery is the “careful management of difference” where “what little acceptance liberal diversity proffers in the way of inclusion is highly mediated by huge realms of exclusion: the ethnic is usually straight, usually has access to material and cultural capital (both as a consumer and as an owner), and is in fact often male. These would be the tentative attributes that would distinguish a tolerable ethnic (an exceptional patriot, for example) from an intolerable ethnic (a terrorist suspect) (25). Ana Ribero makes a similar argument about acceptable heterogeneity in her characterization of “brownwashing rhetoric” used in national addresses by Barack Obama “to placate liberal allies, garner the Latin@ vote, and posit a humane national image, while it disguises continued discriminatory tactics against racialized undocumented migrants” (1).

[5] My usage of the term “market-dominant ethnic elite” refers to the emergence of a class of economically dominant Third-World citizens who reside in economically dominant or Western countries—countries which are wracked with their own internal ethnic politics rendering the presence of seemingly non-dominant ethnic individuals or groups into a kind of currency. For example, many American universities hire international students who are seen as injection of pluralism on campus. Because of how wealth and power are currently distributed across nations, however, these are the market-dominant ethnic elite members from their respective nations.  

[6] I use the term “Third-World” deliberately in its non-alignment and Bandung spirit. For a biography of the short-lived Third-World project, see The Darker Nations by Vijay Prashad and “The World Without Bandung, Or “For a Polycentric System with No Hegemony,” by Samir Amin. In addition, my use of the term ‘western’ is synonymous with the term first-world and invokes the same mapping of power and wealth cited in the sources above.  

[7] Foucault visited with Ayatolla Khomeini during the early revolutionary period and developed his ideas about “political spirituality” based on what he saw on the ground in Iran. He did not, however, publish those writings which remain obscure in academic circlesBehrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi’s very recent work, Foucault in Iran: Islamic Revolution after the Enlightenment covers these writings and notes that Foucault was inspired by “the revolutionary subjects in the streets of Tehran [and] the possibility of a transformative politics one can exercise outside normative conventions of the Enlightenment […] in response to his critics, he insisted that the manner in which the revolution was lived must remain distinct from its success or failure” (189). Please note: another author, an Iranian woman and academic named Janet Afary, has commented about this event and her take is consonant with the same Eurocentric and Islamophobic line in Satrapi’s thinking. 

[8] The “veil” is a blanket term used in the West to describe various forms of spiritually informed dress used by Muslim women—and sometimes men. There are various types of veiling practices informed by various interpretations of Islam. These include not only clothing practices but also states of mind and choices in conduct. In the West, however, the “veil” continues to be depicted in simplistic, sensational, and decidedly orientalist terms.  

[9] I am referring to Samuel Huntington’s infamous “clash of civilizations” thesis in his book of the same title. He argues that conflicts of the post-cold war arena will be primarily cultural conflicts between the so-called East and West—a view that erases the undeniable economics and political (colonial) dynamics in East/West relations. See “The Clash of Civilizations?” in Foreign Affairs, vol. 72, no. 3, 1993.

[10] First, Mary Louise Pratt coins this term (contact zone) to describe the complexities of disparate cultures attempting to establish understanding and connection in her work, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation

[11] Leila Ahmed describes this pattern of social stratification that follows Western commercial activity in the region, “The lower-middle and lower classes, who were generally adversely affected by or experienced no benefits from the economic and political presence of the West had a different perspective on the colonizer’s culture and ways than did the upper classes and new middle-class intellectuals trained in Western ways, whose interests were advanced by affiliation with Western culture and who benefited economically from the British presence” (147). While Ahmed is describing events in Egypt during the British occupation, this pattern, she notes, has repeated in many Middle Eastern societies “in one way or another” and influences a discourse that still informs our understandings of gender in the Middle East today (130).  

[12] For a summary of key events leading up to the Iranian Revolution, please see Vijay Prashad’s The Darker Nations, page 75, titled, “Tehran.” This chapter describes the emergence of an elite Iranian class (secular and Euro-imitating) in the aftermath of trade consolidation by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (the forerunner of British Petroleum). In addition, as noted in Edward Said’s Covering Islam: How the Media and the Experts Determine How We See the Rest of the World the American media landscape is saturated with deceptive representations of Islam and Muslims suggesting that any discussion of the region or Muslims risks breathing further life into this harmful rhetoric.  

[13] Like many regions in the Third-World, British and American corporate interests dramatically re-shaped the destinies of entire nations while British and American governments either stood by tacitly or actively engaged in maintaining these interests. In the case of Iran, the British enabled William Knox D’Arcy’s brazen theft of Iranian oil and American business interests motivated the 1953 CIA-backed overthrow of democratically elected Mohammad Mossadegh. For one small glimpse into this history, please see The Rise and Fall of OPEC in the Twentieth Century by Giuliano Garavini. 

[14] Hilary Chute remarks, “Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, which made its first appearance in the United States in an explicitly feminist, antiracist context in Ms. magazine in 2003” was initially intended to circulate under the title “Persepolis: Tales From and Ordinary Iranian Girlhood” (136). 

[15] See note 9. 

[16] For an in-depth look into how austerity and income inequality influenced the revolution, see chapter 3 of Robert E Looney’sEconomic Origins of the Iranian Revolution, titled “Developments in Agriculture.”

[17] The Sykes-Picot Agreement in 1916 was a secret agreement between France and Britain, with the agreement of Russia, to carve up the remains of the Ottoman empire into zones of colonial influence. 

[18] Puar is drawing extensively on Rey Chow’s work on the ambiguous concept of ethnicity in the contemporary world in her famous book The Protestant Ethnic and Spirit of Capitalism. 

[19] For a study of Aryanist discourse in Iranian home and diaspora communities, please see Reza Zia-Ebrahimi’s “Self-Orientalization and Dislocation: The Uses and Abuses of the ‘Aryan’ Discourse in Iran.” 

[20] Two remarks: First, attending to the formation of a transnational elite does not refute the reality that (in some sense) wealth and power are still concentrated along so-called first-world and Third-World lines—those disparities continue to this day as evidenced by ongoing imperialist aggression against Iran and the larger Middle East by the United States. However, economic realignments and transformations in the world require us to switch from the analytic units currently in use to recognize that there is a first-world within the Third-World and a Third-World within the first-world. And second, recognizing how Third-World elites interact with, and reinforce, power in elite first-world spaces can tell us a great deal about misguided notions of ‘diversity’ currently operating in the academy today. For a reading of these misunderstandings, please see Roderick Ferguson’s The Re-Order of Things: The University and its Pedagogies of Minority Difference 

[21]Masih Alinejad is a prominent Iranian diaspora writer and outspoken activist for women’s rights based in the U.SShe, like Azar Nafisi, is seen moving through Department of Defense circles in an approach to women’s liberation that places her alongside Mike PompeoFor a discussion of these partnership, please see the following source on the official American Embassy Website addition, please see Hamid Dabashi’s chapter, “The Comprador Intellectual” in Brown Skin, White Mask for a view of this tendency among Iranian women writers (44).  

[22] Azadeh Moaveni’s Lipstick Jihad and Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran are vastly popular memoirs by Iranian women whose handling of the Islamic revolutionary project is biased, one-sided, and categorically opposed to any aspect of this on-going project. 

[23]Another example of Satrapi’s classist views appear in the following interview with Robert Root: The basic culture is not that the woman is nothing—Iran is not Saudi Arabia—the women, they are educated, they are cultivated, they work. You have women who are judges, they are doctors, they are journalists, they work. So, these women, when you tell them that their witness doesn’t count as much as that of the guy who is going to wash the windows even if she is a researcher in nuclear science or whatever […] (Root 151). 

[24]Hilary Chute remarks, “Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, which made its first appearance in the United States in an explicitly feminist, antiracist context in Ms. magazine in 2003” and was initially intended to circulate under the title “Persepolis: Tales from an Ordinary Iranian Girlhood” (136). 

[25]Ignoring the relations of exchange between dominant nations and the nations that often supply them with resources is an irresponsible move for any researcher or educator considering the increasingly serious consequences of these relations. For instance, the G-7 (Canada, France, U.S, U.K, Germany, Japan, Italy), own more than half of all the world’s wealth and extract much of it from Third-World nations, “In 1970, when the third-world project was intact, the sixty states classified as “low income” by the World Bank owed commercial lender and international agencies $25 billion. Three decades later, the debt of these countries ballooned to $523 billion […] over the course of three decades, the sixty states paid $523 billion in principle and interest on loans worth $540 billion” (Prashad 277). 

[26]These would be figures such as David Graeber and Michael Hudson whose works examine global financial structures and argue that the U.S Dollar and contemporary monetary systems function as a mechanism of warfare against many nations. Please see Hudson’s Finance as Warfare (2015) and Graeber’s Debt: The First 5,000 Years 

[27]Again, like many nations of the Third-World, Iran was pulled into colonial relations of exchange that could easily be described as theft. For a summary of these relations please see Vijay Prashad’s The Darker Nations and Robert E. Looney’s Economic Origins of the Iranian Revolution 

[28]Please see Sheel B. Yajee’s CIA Operations Against the Third World, 1985. 

[29]xxix Similar arguments appear in the works of decolonial scholars (such as Walter Mignolo, Ramon Grosfoguel, and Anibal Quijano) whose analysis of colonialism often surpasses national borders as a useful unit of analysis. 

[30]The chador is a covering that conceals the entire body, except for the face, and is worn within or outside the home. The home chador is usually made of colorful and floral fabrics and is the veil of choice during prayer. The outdoor chador is normally all black or navy blue and it almost always worn by women in public service. The djinn in this story appears in a home chador, further emphasizing the enclosure of women into the private sphere in the aftermath of the revolution.  

[31]‘Peace Be Upon Him’ is invoked by believers who speak the prophet’s name. 

[32]Recognizing how anti-racist and feminist intentions can subtly serve homogenizing processes, the failures of liberalism are highlighted, again and again, by scholars of postcolonial, and especially, decolonial studies, “diversity is a concept that can have some usefulness […] but it must be properly situated alongside other less ambiguous concepts and within an emancipatory and decolonial rather than liberal framework” (Samir Amin “The World Without Bandung” 17; Maldonado-Torres 99). 

[33]Because Satrapi’s migration experience is, “limited to institutions (hotels, resorts, schools, businesses) that isolate them from having to deal with the local culture in a substantial way and on its own terms” it is highly specific to particular economic classes despite being presented as ‘an ordinary Iranian girlhood’ (Klapcsik 71). 

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