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Gender, sexuality and the moral body : a qualitative study of perceptions and experiences of body management among women in Iran and Iranian migrant women in Belgium

Ladan Rahbari (UGent)
(2019)
Author
Promoter
(UGent) and Gily Coene
Organization
Abstract
This dissertation aims to contribute to the critical studies on Harmful Cultural Practices (HCP). HCP is a humanitarian framework associated with the critique of cultural traditions that promote gender inequality, violating women’s right to health, life, dignity and personal integrity. The HCP framework is predominantly used to scrutinize women’s body management practices in non-Western societies. This dissertation sets its primary scope as exploring (non)religious moral discourses around different perceptions and practices of female body management by Iranian women, and to investigate the possibility of applying the HCP framework in the study of women’s body management. This multi-methods article-based dissertation uses bibliographic desk research, content and discourse analysis, and different interviews techniques in six case-studies, published as research articles. The case-studies focus on an array of body management practices including beauty practices, plastic surgery and everyday grooming activities, sports/fitness and weight management, piety-related practices of veiling and dressing, and vaginal practices. The empirical research explores perceptions and experiences of body management among the study population consisting of Iranian women living either in Iran or in Belgium. The analysis uses feminist and postcolonial conceptual and theoretical frameworks to explain the intersecting discourses of morality built on patriarchal gender ideologies as well as regional and global discourses of religion, health, and beauty. Data suggests that a common and homogenous understanding of embodiment and a pure Iranian tradition of body management does not exist. While religion and piety play an undeniably important role in women’s everyday experiences, they are not the defining factors. Religious morality has had influence on the existing cultural inventories that women refer to, but it is integrated within perceptions of hygiene, beauty and morality to the level that its effects do not appear, or function independent from other cultural resources. Furthermore, morality and harm are both understood as relative, contextual, personal and non-hegemonic by the participants. This means that applying a blanket and generalizing framework such as HCP and using notions of harm and culture is neither justifiable, nor analytically useful. Instead, it is necessary to reflect the complexities and diversities of discourses. As such, the applicability of the concept of HCP to the case of Iranian women’s body management practices is challenged and questioned. To conclude, I suggest that instead of extending HCP to include practices of body management, new complex ways of identifying vulnerability and harm in body management practices that recognize their unique characteristics, contextual differences and implications are required. Recommendations are made for future research.
Keywords
Body Management, Embodiment, Gender, Harmful Cultural Practices, Iran, Morality, Qualitative Methods, Religion, Sexuality.

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Citation

Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:

Chicago
Rahbari, Ladan. 2019. “Gender, Sexuality and the Moral Body : a Qualitative Study of Perceptions and Experiences of Body Management Among Women in Iran and Iranian Migrant Women in Belgium.”
APA
Rahbari, L. (2019). Gender, sexuality and the moral body : a qualitative study of perceptions and experiences of body management among women in Iran and Iranian migrant women in Belgium.
Vancouver
1.
Rahbari L. Gender, sexuality and the moral body : a qualitative study of perceptions and experiences of body management among women in Iran and Iranian migrant women in Belgium. 2019.
MLA
Rahbari, Ladan. “Gender, Sexuality and the Moral Body : a Qualitative Study of Perceptions and Experiences of Body Management Among Women in Iran and Iranian Migrant Women in Belgium.” 2019 : n. pag. Print.
@phdthesis{8617088,
  abstract     = {This dissertation aims to contribute to the critical studies on Harmful Cultural Practices (HCP). HCP is a humanitarian framework associated with the critique of cultural traditions that promote gender inequality, violating women’s right to health, life, dignity and personal integrity. The HCP framework is predominantly used to scrutinize women’s body management practices in non-Western societies. This dissertation sets its primary scope as exploring (non)religious moral discourses around different perceptions and practices of female body management by Iranian women, and to investigate the possibility of applying the HCP framework in the study of women’s body management. This multi-methods article-based dissertation uses bibliographic desk research, content and discourse analysis, and different interviews techniques in six case-studies, published as research articles. The case-studies focus on an array of body management practices including beauty practices, plastic surgery and everyday grooming activities, sports/fitness and weight management, piety-related practices of veiling and dressing, and vaginal practices. The empirical research explores perceptions and experiences of body management among the study population consisting of Iranian women living either in Iran or in Belgium. The analysis uses feminist and postcolonial conceptual and theoretical frameworks to explain the intersecting discourses of morality built on patriarchal gender ideologies as well as regional and global discourses of religion, health, and beauty. Data suggests that a common and homogenous understanding of embodiment and a pure Iranian tradition of body management does not exist. While religion and piety play an undeniably important role in women’s everyday experiences, they are not the defining factors. Religious morality has had influence on the existing cultural inventories that women refer to, but it is integrated within perceptions of hygiene, beauty and morality to the level that its effects do not appear, or function independent from other cultural resources. Furthermore, morality and harm are both understood as relative, contextual, personal and non-hegemonic by the participants. This means that applying a blanket and generalizing framework such as HCP and using notions of harm and culture is neither justifiable, nor analytically useful. Instead, it is necessary to reflect the complexities and diversities of discourses. As such, the applicability of the concept of HCP to the case of Iranian women’s body management practices is challenged and questioned. To conclude, I suggest that instead of extending HCP to include practices of body management, new complex ways of identifying vulnerability and harm in body management practices that recognize their unique characteristics, contextual differences and implications are required. Recommendations are made for future research.},
  author       = {Rahbari, Ladan},
  keywords     = {Body Management,Embodiment,Gender,Harmful Cultural Practices,Iran,Morality,Qualitative Methods,Religion,Sexuality.},
  language     = {eng},
  school       = {Ghent University},
  title        = {Gender, sexuality and the moral body : a qualitative study of perceptions and experiences of body management among women in Iran and Iranian migrant women in Belgium},
  year         = {2019},
}