Following the 1979 revolution, women’s access to higher education in Iran increased dramatically. In just two decades higher education went from a privilege afforded to a tiny minority of women to a social norm and an “Islamic” right for the majority. Today most of the students in Iranian universities are women, and women’s access to the public sphere has expanded tremendously in every field. This essay is based on oral histories of twenty-one Iranian women who in the late 1980s and early 1990s were the first in their families to go to a university. Accounts of women’s agency during this period have tended to read the relationship between the revolutionary state and sociopolitically active women as one of religious repression versus secular resistance (Esfandiari 1997; Gerami 1996; Rostami-Povey 2011; Sanasarian 1982; Shavarini 2005,...

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