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Amardeep Singh is Assistant Professor of English at Lehigh University. His book, Literary Secularism: Religion and Modernity in Twentieth-Century Fiction, was published by Cambridge Scholars Press in 2006.

The Feral Issue

ns 73-74 | Fall 2009/Spring 2010

The "Feral Issue" presents work by a range of people, from those who have been doing animal studies all along to those newly exploring the field. If it has a leaning, it is to build a cultural materialist account of animals in our world. We hope that the writing here will give our readers a sense of what animal studies is and where it's going, and also add some new voices to its course.

Read this Issue

Published Spring 2007

Republics of the Imagination

by Amardeep Singh | ns 68

Too often we conclude that we are practical creatures, essentially political animals. But in us, there is a far greater impulse—a longing for what I will bluntly call the universal. And it is in this leap toward middle ground that we move closer to what effectively binds us: culture, stories, language. For it is here, in what I like to call the Republic of the Imagination, that we are most humane.

—Azar Nafisi, "The Stuff that Dreams Are Made Of"

Since 2000, there has been a wave of expatriate narratives from Afghanistan and Iran—both memoirs and novels—and they pose challenges to postcolonial theory and transnational feminism. Memoirs such as Azar Nafisi's bestselling Reading Lolita in Tehran (2003) and Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis (2002) are among the strongest texts by expatriate Iranians, while Afghan Nelofer Pazira's A Bed of Red Flowers (2005) might be the richest offering in the recent wave of expatriate Afghan memoirs. Fictional texts have been fewer in number—possibly due to the current preference for memoir in the US publishing market—but Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner (2003), is far and away the most successful Afghan novelist to have emerged. Amongst Iranian expatriate novelists, Farnoosh Moshiri stands out, particularly with her 2003 novel The Bathhouse.

Iranian and Afghan expatriate writers, despite obvious differences in the recent histories of the two countries, share a concern for the plight of women under intensely repressive Islamic regimes, and a disproportionate number of the published expatriates have been women.1 Hosseini's first novel, The Kite Runner, does not focus on gender, but his second novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007), addresses the repressive treatment of women in traditional Afghan life as well as the obsession with women evident in the social policies of the Taliban. In contrast to Hosseini's fiction, influential memoirs by Afghan women such as Pazira and Saira Shah have dealt with issues such as the mandatory burqa and the pervasive disempowerment of women in rural Afghanistan as well as in Kabul under the Taliban.2

These narratives challenge postcolonial approaches to culture and empire in three ways. First, they reflect configurations of power and repression that do not originate with Euro-American colonial power. Afghanistan's civil war in the 1980s and 90s followed a Soviet invasion, not a western European one, and reflects a somewhat different ideological configuration than did the earlier British and French models of colonialism. Iran was never formally colonized, though it exhibits at least some of the cultural concerns characteristic of formerly colonized nations. It should be noted that while Afghanistan did have a sustained (if partial) experience as a British colony, resentment about that colonial experience plays little part in recent narratives. Today's Afghan expatriate writers reject the argument that the greatest enemy of freedom in Afghanistan over the past thirty years has been the United States (or its allies), which supported the Mujahideen against the Soviets in the 1980s. Statements of support for the pre-Soviet Marxist government in Afghanistan by western intellectuals like Gloria Steinem therefore seem somewhat ill-informed.3 And Marxist accounts, which have seen US intervention in Afghanistan as an example of "endless war" in the name of corporatist globalization (such as Chowdhury) also fail to acknowledge the truly dire condition of the country after the Soviet occupation and the subsequent civil war. Both Iranian and Afghan authors emphasize that the real enemy must be understood as totalitarianism, which is neither "eastern" nor "western" in provenance.

Secondly, Iran's revolution of 1979 was at least partly leftist and "anti-colonial," against a Shah seen as a client of western powers (on the background, see Fischer and Keddie). But the progressive strains of the Iranian revolution were soon silenced as the Islamists grew more dominant in the new government. The catastrophe of the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini and the current Iranian political system with its "make-believe democratic institutions" (Zanganeh xii) raises a second challenge for postcolonial theory, namely, the idea that local "cultural values" (i.e. the critique of Eurocentrism) should be given precedence over "universalist" ideas about human rights, and women's rights in particular. Post-Colonial Studies: The Key Concepts reproduces the standard critique: "Universalism offers a hegemonic view of existence by which the experiences, values and expectations of a dominant culture are held to be true for all humanity" (Ashcroft et al. 235). But such a formulation offers little support to Iranian and Afghan feminists, many of whom unapologetically derive their concepts of women's human rights from the West. After having experienced first-hand the systematic disempowerment of women in theocratic Iran, Nafisi argues that a "universalist" approach to women's rights is the only effective rhetorical response to oppression.4 On the question of whether the oppression of women in Iran and Afghanistan might be exploited by western feminists along the lines suggested by Chandra Talpade Mohanty and others, Nafisi has been silent; one might speculate that the potential misuse of a rhetoric of oppression is a lesser evil to a first-hand survivor of the Iranian revolution than the material fact of institutional violence against women in both countries for the past thirty years.

Finally, Nafisi's work in particular challenges some of the assumptions guiding the practice of literary criticism in the era of cultural studies. Nafisi states repeatedly in Reading Lolita as well as in a recent essay that the imaginative space of the novel has to reserve a degree of freedom from "totalitarian" politicization, whether leftist or rightist. As Nafisi puts it, "We do not read in order to turn great works of fiction into simplistic replicas of our own realities, we read for the pure, sensual, and unadulterated pleasure of reading. And if we do so, our reward is the discovery of the many hidden layers within these works that do not merely reflect reality but reveal a spectrum of truths, thus intrinsically going against the grain of totalitarian mindsets" (7). In other words, Nafisi believes in the primacy of an aesthetic experience protected from "ideology," in contrast to much current cultural studies analysis. Modern fiction, she argues, is inherently democratizing and secularizing, but it need not wear its politics on its sleeve, nor is it liberatory (in any sense) to read it as if it does.5

Having sold more than 2 million copies in the US alone and with a Hollywood-produced film shortly to be released, the most famous expatriate Afghan text has to be Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner. Though its aesthetic qualities as a work of serious literature may be arguable, there is no doubt that the book has become the quintessential Afghan expatriate narrative and the point of reference for millions of readers worldwide for the Afghan struggle since the 1970s. The novel exemplifies many of the properties seen in expatriate writing from other nations, instantiating Rushdie's famous metaphor of the expatriate writer as always "obliged to deal in broken mirrors, some of whose fragments have been lost" (11). In his fiction, Rushdie aims, just as Hosseini does, to represent a society he left many years ago, a society that has continued to evolve and transform in his absence. The key word in thinking about expatriate experience might seem to be loss, but for Rushdie there is also something gained:

But there is a paradox here. The broken mirror may actually be as valuable as the one which is supposedly unflawed... . It was precisely the partial nature of these memories, their fragmentation, that made them so evocative for me. The shards of memory acquired greater status, greater resonance, because they were remains; fragmentation made trivial things seem like symbols, and the mundane acquired numinous qualities.... It may be argued that the past is a country from which we have all emigrated, that its loss is part of our common humanity. Which seems to me self-evidently true; but I suggest that the writer who is out-of-country and even out-of-language may experience this loss in an intensified form. It is made more concrete for him by the physical fact of discontinuity, of his present being in a different place from his past, of his being "elsewhere." This may enable him to speak properly and concretely on a subject of universal significance and appeal. (12).

For Rushdie, a broken mirror has advantages—the reflection gains intensity, and seeing a society from outside the writer can think about it in ways he might not have been able to if he had not left. "The broken mirror" fits the expatriate narratives under discussion here, especially by Hosseini, Nafisi, and Moshiri, all of which contend with a sense of irrevocable displacement that also gives freedom in some surprising ways.

As he left Afghanistan at the age of 11, in 1976 (before most of the country experienced its most traumatic crises), Hosseini's mirrors may be more broken than usual; some passages in The Kite Runner betray the effects of distance and the apparent desire to address a primarily western audience. Early in the novel Hosseini's protagonist Amir, in a description of his ethnically different, childhood friend Hassan, says: "Never mind that to me, the face of Afghanistan is that of a boy with a thin-boned frame, a shaved head, and low-set ears, a boy with a Chinese doll face perpetually lit by a harelipped smile" (25). The image is clearly meant as a metaphor for Afghanistan's suffering, but it also expresses, in my reading, the desire of a writer who lives abroad to recover the texture of a life that has vanished. One doesn't think of someone as the face of a country unless one has left that country.

Critics of The Kite Runner have complained that the narrative's thematic focus on betrayal and the redemption of a friendship is too comfortably "western" to be an "authentic" portrayal of Afghan life, but this is not entirely an accurate or fair characterization. A standard criticism of the novel's user-friendliness comes from "Because The Kite Runner's didactic lessons are the precise sort we are hungry to hear (redemption is possible, Western values are exportable, and so forth), it is worth being alert to what's missing from the novel, which is much exploration of the subtleties of assumptions that do divide people" (O'Rourke). While it is undeniable that Hosseini's writing style is designed to appeal to the broadest possible readership, it isn't necessarily the case that the values reflected in the novel are inherently or exclusively western—and indeed, in various ways, Hosseini challenges readers to consider how terms such as "western" and "non-western" are defined. For instance, Hosseini continually interjects words from Dari and Pashto (Shorawi, nang, namoos, khastegar, etc.) to convey some of the cultural particularities of Afghan life. At a more general level, the novel's thematic attention to the relationships between fathers and sons might seem "western," but Hosseini repeatedly flags an Iranian/Afghan antecedent in the medieval Persian epic, The Shahnamah, in which a father (Rostam) fails to recognize his disguised son (Sobrab), challenges him in battle, and only learns the truth after he has mortally wounded Sohrab. This aligns closely with the narrator's relationship with his father, his father's relationship with his illegitimate son Hassan, and finally Amir's decision to acknowledge his kinship with Hassan's son. It is possible that the novel's "exportable values" are rooted in the cultural matrix of Afghanistan after all.

In addition to challenging readers' cultural expectations, The Kite Runner upends readers' assumptions about political ideology in postcolonial (here, specifically post-Soviet) Afghanistan. One of the most ethnographically revealing moments in the novel is when Hosseini's protagonist relates how his father has placed a picture of Ronald Reagan in a place of prominence in his home in Fremont, California (126). Thus one of the most despised leaders in recent history among left-leaning critics—a President responsible for an ethically dubious CIA-backed war in Central America, among other things—is actually viewed by Afghan expatriates as a kind of heroic figure. While this stops short of a total endorsement, the passion for Reagan underscores a significant difference between Hosseini's perspective and that of many Indian and African postcolonial writers from the generation of the 1970s and 80s. Other postcolonial writers might see the Soviet Union as a sympathetic socialist nation, or at worst a neutral presence, but Afghan writers like Hosseini and Pazira see the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan as an attempt at colonization in its most naked, violent form. David Chioni Moore has outlined at length the parallels between Soviet expansionism (or "Russo-colonialism") and the colonialism practiced by western European powers, arguing persuasively that the Soviet role in Eastern Europe, as well as in central Asian states such as Armenia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Chechnya, and Tajikstan, is strikingly similar to the role played by the British and French colonial powers in Africa and South Asia (519). Moore stops short of including Afghanistan in exactly the same category as the other Soviet/Russian colonies, but he makes it clear that in nearly every respect Russo-colonialism in central Asia ought to be understood as of a kind with British and French colonialism.6

Like The Kite Runner, Farnoosh Moshiri's The Bathhouse (2003) might be said to be both "particular" and "universal" in its representation of imprisonment and torture. Also like The Kite Runner, Moshiri's novel clearly reflects the experience of an expatriate, both spatially and temporally removed from the circumstances she aims to represent—even though the protagonist in The Bathhouse never leaves Iran. Moshiri's novel is a chilling account of a teenage girl's imprisonment and torture at a detention facility located at what had been a public bath; the setting is presumably post-revolutionary Iran, though specific historical and contextual details are scarce (even the city is not named). The novel is in some ways a condensed reworking of Moshiri's long novel about unjust imprisonment and torture in the Iranian revolution, At the Wall of the Almighty (1999), with the protagonist shifted from a politicized male to an apolitical woman. The shift in gender is by no means accidental: The Bathhouse emphasizes the ways in which this kind of imprisonment affects women's bodies in particular—beginning with the shame associated with menstruation, but also including the ambiguous status that pregnancy and motherhood come to have inside the prison. Moshiri's novel does not initially sexualize the imprisonment of girls and women, but the tone shifts as it moves towards its conclusion, depicting the infamous Iranian policy of singling out women who were known to be virgins, having guards "marry" and then rape them before execution to prevent them from going to heaven.7 Moshiri's protagonist in The Bathhouse briefly falls into this category before she is rescued and freed. By the end, after the violence that has been inflicted on her and that she witnesses, the experience of freedom rings hollow; she walks away from the prison without any real reason to go on with her life.

Some readers have complained that, in contrast to memoirs like Reading Lolita in Tehran and Persepolis, The Bathhouse doesn't elucidate much about the particular history of the Iranian revolution.8 But Moshiri's real interest is the psychic effect of imprisonment under a brutal totalitarian system, and abstraction is suitable to that project—which is one of the key differences between the level of particularity expected from a memoir and from a novel. The Bathhouse is the story of a resilient mind that first adapts under the pressure of various forms of torture and humiliation, and eventually breaks when the hope of freedom (even outside the walls of the prison) seemingly evaporates. Moshiri's protagonist enters the prison with artifacts of her pre-prison self still attached—her "stupid" journals, her digital wristwatch—but these are stripped away as various forms of humiliation and, more murderously, isolation, are inflicted on her. The result is the vitiation of the protagonist's investment in her identity and her life.

Moshiri's novel about women's experience in prison is unique in that it considerably deemphasizes the veil (referred to in Iran as chador or chadar, and in Afghanistan as burqa), which most other narratives of Iran and Afghanistan, especially those written by women, put front and center. Sonali Kolhatkar and James Ingalls, in their book Bleeding Afghanistan: Washington, Warlords, and the Propaganda of Silence (2006), argue that the western publishing industry's fixation on the veil effectively serves the interests of American foreign policy. They note that the post-9/11 period has seen the publication of a raft of "blue burqa books," many of which aim to "sensationalize and exploit" the burqa as a symbol of oppression.9 Saira Shah's memoir, The Storyteller's Daughter (2004), is not specifically named by Kolhatkar and Ingalls, but it demonstrates their point:

At thirty-six years old, I have never seen Afghanistan at peace. I am choking under the burqa, the pale blue veil, which begins in a cap upon my head. It covers my face, my body, my arms and my legs, and is long enough to trip me up in my muddy plastic shoes. A crocheted grille obscures my vision. A grid of black shadows intersects trees, fields and the white road outside. It is like looking out through prison bars... . I have not had enough air for four hours now and we have eight more to go before we reach Kabul. I have an almost irresistible urge to do whatever it takes to breathe, simply breathe. How can I describe it? I want to rip off the burqa in the way that a drowning man will grapple his rescuer in his urge to reach the air above. But I cannot: it is all that protects me from the Taliban. Even lifting the front flap of my burqa is a crime, punishable by a beating. (13)

One sees a similar expression of outrage in Siddiq Barmak's powerful film, Osama (2003), which explores the desperate conditions for women under the Taliban.10 Though representations like Shah's seem to perpetuate the "sensationalization and exploitation" of Afghan repression, it must be acknowledged that Shah represents Afghan women as sensationalized and exploited by men. Still, the idea that the burqa is the defining symbol of the Taliban isn't the only account available. Nelofer Pazira, for instance, doesn't dwell on it when she and the other women in her modernized Kabuli family are forced to wear burqas while fleeing the country in 1989 (though she does resent the burqa when she goes back, after ten years in Canada).11 And even the Norwegian Asne Seierstad, in The Bookseller of Kabul, has a relatively measured response to the requirement that she wear it.

Moreover, one of the disappointing aspects about the fall of the Taliban and the subsequent rise of the UN-backed Karzai government is the new government's failure to improve conditions for women significantly, especially women in rural Afghanistan.12 The public stonings in Kabul have ceased, but by all accounts many rural Afghan women continue to wear the burqa in public as a matter of routine—just as they did before the Taliban came to power in the mid-1990s. That said, there are many rural Afghan women who do not mind wearing a burqa—or at least it may not be a priority when getting access to schools, health care, and legal protections is more urgent. In short, the preoccupation with the burqa in a book like The Storyteller's Daughter is a way of playing western readers' expectations.

Azar Nafisi, in Reading Lolita in Tehran, is not worried about whether or not her narrative will be interpreted in this vein. Indeed, Nafisi is militantly apolitical. Though there are occasional political arguments, Reading Lolita is likely to be best remembered as an inspired and original work of literary criticism. Nafisi insists on the democratizing effects of the novel through its preservation of the freedom of imagination. As Nafisi stressed while teaching The Great Gatsby at the University of Tehran in the early 1980s:

A novel is not an allegory, I said as the period was about to come to an end. It is the sensual experience of another world. If you don't enter that world, hold your breath with the characters and become involved in their destiny, you won't be able to empathize, and empathy is at the heart of the novel. This is how you read a novel: you inhale the experience. So start breathing. I just want you to remember this. That is all; class dismissed. (111)

The metaphor of reading as breathing is not entirely innocent, as Nafisi well knows. She herself did graduate work in the English department at the University of Oklahoma in the 1970s and was a committed leftist early in her career. (Her PhD dissertation, she tells us, was on the American communist Mike Gold, author of Jews Without Money and My Aunt Lena.) In Nafisi's early years as a professor of literature, everything was political. And the early years of the Islamic Revolution made the politicization of literature permanent (albeit in right-wing Islamist terms). After initially resisting the regime alongside other leftists, Nafisi settled into a life that entailed compromising on matters such as the veil, as well as her own idealism. As the fascistic, repressive hold of the regime deepened, Nafisi started to realize that the line between even divergent orthodoxies is negligible, so long as they aim to quell dissent, deviance, or any kind of individuated thinking.13 Reading Lolita in Tehran, written after Nafisi left the country in 1997, argues this latter point quite forcefully. For Nafisi, any rigidly orthodox mode of reading fails to account for the complexity of the mind, the development of character, or of the story itself.

A curious moment occurs in Reading Lolita when Nafisi, arguing with one of the religious fundamentalists in her class about Jane Austen, finds him citing Edward Said: "It was ironic that a Muslim fundamentalist should quote Said against Austen. It was just as ironic that the most reactionary elements in Iran had come to identify with and co-opt the work and theories of those considered revolutionary in the West" (290). No doubt this would be a surprise for most western-trained literary critics who have studied Said— a tireless secularist from a Christian Palestinian background. Yet while Nafisi's student (Mr. Nahvi) clearly deploys Said out of context, it does not escape the reader that the reductive, Manichean approach to literature—"bad"/colonialist or "good"/subversive —is not that far removed from the style of scholarship often associated with postcolonial theory. How different is Mr. Nahvi's thinking, really, from our own?

Nafisi's universalism must be thought of not as a means of imposing a conservative (or "hegemonic") interpretive methodology, but rather as suggesting that one of the aims of reading literary fiction is to experience the aesthetic as loss of fixity—the awareness that no one interpretive method will ever be sufficient to grasp the full texture of a work of art. Some may object that this aesthetic-centered apolitical stance is itself political, but the way in which it can be understood as "apolitically political" is unique to Nafisi's experience as an Iranian expatriate who now regrets her history of involvement with the Left.

It is ironic that the texts from Iran and Aghanistan that have had the most impact internationally in the past decade have been prose memoirs and novels because Iran and Persia have been classically renowned for their poets (and styles of poetry originating in Iran, the Ghazal chief among them, have been hugely influential in India and beyond). But the choice of genre, and more generally the choice of prose, might speak to the function both novels and memoirs have as forms of testimony to the trauma of contemporary history. It may be that memoir is favored by current readers at least partially because it must be based on personal experience of trauma, which contributes to a sense of empathy with, and possibly outrage at, the institutionalized violence the author presumably experienced. Novels continue to play an important role in representing historical totalitarianism and violence as well. They allow writers like Hosseini and Moshiri to describe events which they did not experience but may have been close to. Novels are also free, at some fundamental level, to explore imaginative avenues that are not always available in memoir. Moreover, the novel can suggest a scope beyond an actual event and place—in Moshiri's case, the prison she describes might well be a prison in any totalitarian society that is hostile to subversive and nonconforming women. Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran, though itself a memoir, speaks passionately of the value and power of fiction, even under the harshest forms of totalitarianism.

The issues raised by expatriate writers like Nafisi, Hosseini, Moshiri, and others suggest the difficulty of applying many existing postcolonial models to their regions. To some extent Iran and Afghanistan can be understood as unique cases and exceptions to the pattern of colonial rule and liberation (and the attendant struggle over language, political system, economy, and so on) seen in South Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean, and these expatriate narratives revise postcolonial theory's doxa regarding the relationship between eastern and western societies, universal and particularist concepts of rights, and ideologically-motivated reading and non-ideological reading. The most pressing ethical imperative seems not to be resistance to the "West" (or, for that matter, "globalization"); instead, these contemporary narratives about Iran and Afghanistan underline the need for committed, transnational resistance to all forms of totalitarianism and militarism, irrespective of their provenance.


1. The genre of Iranian memoir is especially large. In addition to Satrapi and Nafisi, one can go to quite a number of others, including Gelareh Asayesh's Saffron Sky: A Life Between Iran and America; Azadeh Moaveni's Lipstick Jihad: Growing Up Iranian in America and American in Iran; Afschineh Latifi's Even After All This Time: A Story of Love, Revolution, and Leaving Iran; Tara Bahrampour's To See and See Again: A Life in Iran and America; Roya Hakakian's Journey from the Land of No: A Girlhood Caught in Revolutionary Iran; and Firoozeh Dumas's Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America. All of the above memoirs are written by Iranian women, most of whom left Iran in their childhood. Several of these are excerpted in a recent anthology edited by Persis Karim, Let Me Tell You Where I've Been: New Writing by Women of the Iranian Diaspora (2006). Karim has also edited A World Between: Poems, Short Stories, and Essays by Iranian-Americans (1999).

2. I'm not here including accounts of the condition of Afghan women written by western feminists. The most influential might be Asne Seierstad's The Bookseller of Kabul, though there are literally dozens at the present moment.

3. Gloria Steinem's "The Kaleidoscope of Memory" in Women on Afghan Women states: "In 1980 I and other women protested the U.S. support for the Mujahideen in their religious war against Afghanistan's Soviet-backed government. The 'sins' of this Marxist government were that they encouraged women to attend political meetings, reformed law so that women could marry without parental consent, and sent girls to school. American feminists were ignored, and the United States finally gave a staggering $3 billion in support of religious extremists and gender apartheid" (66).

4. Here is Nafisi: "Too often we conclude that we are practical creatures, essentially political animals. But in us, there is a far greater impulse—a longing for what I will bluntly call the universal. And it is in this leap toward middle ground that we move closer to what effectively binds us: culture, stories, language. For it is here, in what I like to call the Republic of the Imagination, that we are most humane" ("Stuff" 11).

5. In reference to Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa against Salman Rushdie, Nafisi writes, "As Carlos Fuentes states, the ayatollah had issued a fatwa not just against a writer but also against the democratic form of the novel, which frames a multiplicity of voices—from different and at times opposing perspectives—in a critical exchange where one voice does not destroy and eliminate another" ("Stuff" 6-7).

6. Moore also acknowledges the important differences between Soviet style colonialism and "Anglo-Franco" colonialism. However, he is critical of Edward Said's emphasis on colonialism as primarily a maritime phenomenon in Culture and Empire. For Moore, the fact that Russian colonialism proceeded by "adjacency" does not alter its fundamental character.

7. This ghastly practice is also described in Satrapi's Persepolis. Satrapi also mentions that the families of the raped and executed young women were generally sent symbolic dowries and boxes of fruit to indicate that their daughters had been "married."

8. The book has not been widely or rigorously reviewed, but an reader expresses his frustration as follows: "While the premise of the story setup for a gripping tale, surprisingly little was revealed to the reader beyond the confines of the bathhouse. Nothing about the revolution, the government, the counter-revolutionaries."

9. They argue that "The enforcement of the Afghan women's veil or 'burqa' was sensationalized and exploited to such an extent that American women would use burqas as props in their demonstrations and publicity campaigns to gain attention among passers-by. Little attempt was made to understand the origins of the garment, its pervasiveness in pre-Taliban Afghanistan, or its context as one of many draconian Taliban edicts. The burqa-clad Afghan woman had become a visual object of horror-filled fascination" (178).

10. Osama is generally regarded as the first film produced in Afghanistan following the Taliban. Interestingly, the film was largely financed with Iranian money, and the famous Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf sent his cinematographer to Kabul to assist with the filming.

11. The burqa is also one of the central motifs of the Iranian film Kandahar (2001), in which Nelofer Pazira played the starring role. Director Mohsen Makhmalbaf's decision to lament the centrality of this garment seems ironic in light of the continuation (in somewhat relaxed form) of the mandatory wearing of the Chador in Iran.

12. Indeed, Kolhatkar and Ingalls, in their meticulously-researched book Bleeding Afghanistan: Washington, Warlords, and the Propaganda of Silence, argue that the rule of the warlords, especially in northern Afghanistan has been every bit as brutally repressive as the former Taliban regime was; see their chapter "Replacing One Brutal Regime With Another" (85-116).

13. Paul Berman considers Nafisi's ideological shifts in Power and the Idealists. His perspective is somewhat slanted because he feels that the leftward turn amongst intellectuals in the 1960s paved the way for the rise of religious fundamentalism in Iran in the 1970s.

Works Cited

Ashcroft, Bill, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin. Post-Colonial Studies: The Key Concepts. New York: Routledge, 2000.

Berman, Paul. Power and the Idealists. New York: Soft Skull, 2005.

Chowdhury, Kanishka. "Interrogating 'Newness': Globalization and Postcolonial Theory In the Age of Endless War." Cultural Critique 62 (Winter 2006): 126-61.

Fischer, Michael M.J. Iran: From Religious Dispute to Revolution. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1980.

Hosseini, Khaled. The Kite Runner. New York: Riverhead, 2003.

---. A Thousand Splendid Suns. New York: Riverhead, 2007.

Keddie, Nikki. Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution. New Haven: Yale UP, 2003.

Kolhatkar, Sonali, and David Ingalls. Bleeding Afghanistan: Washington, Warlords, and the Propaganda of Silence. New York: Seven Stories, 2005.

Mohanty, Chandra Talpade. "Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourse." Feminism Without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity. Durham: Duke UP, 2004. 17-42.

Moore, David Chioni. "Is the Post- in Postcolonial the Post- in Post-Soviet?: Toward a Global Postcolonial Critique." Postcolonialisms: An Anthology of Cultural Theory and Criticism. Ed. Gaurav Desai and Supriya Nair. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 2005.

Moshiri, Farnoosh. At the Wall of the Almighty. Toronto: Interlink, 1999.

---. The Bathhouse. Boston: Beacon, 2001.

Nafisi, Azar. Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books. New York: Random, 2003.

---. "The Stuff that Dreams are Made of." My Sister, Guard Your Veil, My Brother, Guard Your Eyes: Uncensored Iranian Voices. Ed. Zanganeh. Boston: Beacon, 2006.

O'Rourke, Meghan. "The Kite Runner: Do I Really Have to Read It?", July 25, 2005.

Rushdie, Salman. Imaginary Homelands. New York: Penguin, 1992.

Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood. New York: Pantheon, 2002.

Seierstad, Asne. The Bookseller of Kabul. New York: Little, Brown, 2002.

Shah, Saira. The Storyteller's Daughter. New York: Knopf, 2003.

Steinem, Gloria. "The Kaleidoscope of Memory." Women on Afghan Women. Ed.Sunita Mehta. New York: Palgrave, 2002.

Zanganeh, Lila Azam. "Introduction." My Sister, Guard Your Veil, My Brother, Guard Your Eyes: Uncensored Iranian Voices. Ed. Zanganeh. Boston: Beacon, 2006.

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