“Humane men are concerned about providing benefits to the world and eliminating its calamities…” – Mo Tzu.


Image result for china crowd pictures

Political legitimacy is “the central issue in social and political theory” (Beetham, 1991:p.41), and the foundation of a political community. Legitimacy can arise from many differing spheres politically; Beetham discerns his reading of legitimacy to be “a power relationship justified in terms of people’s beliefs”. He discerns three separate politically legitimising factors. There must be; i) legal ‘conformity to set rules’; ii) ‘normative justifiability of these rules in terms of shared beliefs’ through the source of political authority, and proper standards of government, and finally, iii) ‘legitimisation through expressed consent’ (Holbig, 2006,p.5). Political legitimacy is generally defined as the “capacity of the system to engender and maintain the belief that the existing political institutions are the most appropriate ones for the society (Lipset, 1959,p.77).

Lipset’s polemic classification of legitimacy has an axiomatic character within academia; his appraisal of “appropriate performance legitimacy” (Lipset, 1959,p.1) being vital to overall legitimacy, demonstrates the enduring nature of the Chinese state. However many argue that Lipsettian “democratic legitimacy” and the incompleteness of authoritarian economic led “rational-legal authority” (Weber, 1958,p.1) means China is delegitimized both to its own people, and the international community. Notwithstanding I argue economic modernisation led welfare can legitimise a state, even though it can be a transient legitimacy, this is eminently so in the case of China. As the quote by Mo Tzu evidences, traditionalistic Confucian communitarianism, and China’s special historic background countenances it to be legitimised more efficiously from the “performance legitimacy” model. The CCP covers the first 2 bases of Beetham’s polemic classification, I argue “expressed consent” is not necessary for political legitimacy; consent can be shown from a conflation of the peoples and states ideals without direct democratic countenance. However ‘economic modernisation and welfare’ is merely only part of a vast array of legitimising factors in the Chinese context. This leads one to conclude that although modernisation and its effects may promote legitimacy; the way China is embracing modernisation is rapidly deconstructing its own legitimacy basis, forcing greater reliance on alternative legitimising factors.

Despite its salutary economic growth, and grand welfare improvements for its people; environmental destruction and the “increasingly skewed distribution of income, not unrelated to rampant corruption” (Jon, 2006,p.1) all point toward a problematic future for China. Similarly the China situation casts doubt on the lasting legitimising effect of economic modernisation on a polity, sans input legitimacy.

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Personality Crisis? Did the “personalisation of politics” lead to UKIP’s rise?


In the May 2014 European elections, Nigel Farage and the UK Independence Party (UKIP from hereon) polled in first place, with 26.6 per cent of the national vote. Despite UKIP’s now ostensible popularity, they are academically under analysed as a political movement. There have been studies over the past decade into ‘who’ votes for UKIP, comprising studies of socio-economically grouped votes for the party; such as the ‘left behind[1]’ (Ford, Goodwin, 2014[i]), “polite racists and xenophobes… grey haired Tories” (Ford, Goodwin, Cutts, 2012, p.16), “blue collar old labour” (Ford, Goodwin, Cutts, 2012,p.3), and the “politically dispossessed” (Ford, 2013, p.80) but less examined is ‘why’.

Why factors are contended to include “globalisation” (Mason,2014), “the economic incapability of acclimatizing to today’s post-industrial Britain” (Ford,Goodwin,2014) and a distaste for the contemporary change within Britain’s “culture and identity” (Kaufmann,2014). This literature review will examine where I believe there is a major gap of research into the support factors of UKIP. That research is in the ‘personalisation of politics’ within a wider UK trend.

With the existing political focus on personalities not parties, there is a gap in greater understanding as to why people support UKIP, and the fluctuations facing our now splintering democracy.

The theory of the ‘personalisation of politics’; is defined “that individual political actors have become more prominent, to the detriment of parties, and collective identities” (Karvonen, 2010 p.13). No studies have applied the theoretical framework to a burgeoning populist radical right party, on a longitudinal basis in the UK. Consequently UKIP provides a useful vehicle for ascertaining whether personalisation is increasing, its magnitude of change, and whether this is a core support base for UKIP. Most importantly UKIP, as a case study, can push us towards a greater understanding of how parliamentary politics is shifting. There are key gaps in understanding within the field, and as a small party UKIP is well placed for analysis. This is because most of the studies (bar studies in Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands) exclude small parties. Consequently there is a large scope for the further study of personalisation within the UK’s now ‘5 party system’, and whether this has led to UKIP support.

Personalisation of politics’ literature is defined into two categories. Studies that I de-mark as ‘presidentialisation’ in parliamentary systems (inc. Langer, 2011, Karvonen, 2010; Hermansson, 2010 et al.). These studies focus on the ever more important role of prime ministers/party leaders and their characteristics, to the detriment of parties. The other interrelated category are studies of ‘party leader effects’ in elections. These are quantitative examinations inquiring into the effects of leaders upon voter’s party support, enquiring whether party leaders ”lift” or ”sink” their parties (inc. Curtice, 2005, Holmberg, 2005, Oscarsson & Holmberg, 2008 et al.). However due to the scope of this field I will be focusing on the theoretical and case study literature. There are also psychological theories of ‘political personalisation’ focussing on the individual citizen (Caprara,2007 for example). This is a huge semi-related area I will only touch upon for reference.

I will break down the literature into; a broader overview of the existing literature’s case studies of presidentialisation of the parliamentary system. Then a more focussed review (owning to its greater relation to Farage) of the literature on the role of the media/social media and power of personality. Questioning whether institutional issues, or the media, has led to the proliferation of personalisation; analysing major academic arguments in relation to Farage.

Presidentialisation as personalisation, and the case for a smaller study.

Presidentialisation “examines where the core concern is the ever more major role of party leaders in parliamentary systems” (Karvonen,2010,p.6) and the consequent effects on voting habits. It is the main element of personalisation theory. It is often evidenced by the “referring to candidates rather than the parties they belong to” (Dalton,McAllister,&Wattenberg,2000,p34); the permutation of “leader pictures for party icons” (McAllister,1996); and the proclivity to “label cabinets after their leaders” (Bean&Mughan,1989,p3). Few academics disagree with these examples in western democracies. However there is an ongoing debate over causes, evidence and effect. The literature is extremely nebulous; for example although Heffernan & Webb agree that presidentialisation exists, they argue it has “little or no discernible effect” (2005, p45.) they are supported by academics questioning existing conceptual and empirical deficiencies (Hermansson&Persson,2010; Persson&Wiberg,2011).

Anthony Mughan looked at the UK’s parliamentary system before the year 2000, arguing that party leaders of the major parties “now figure more prominently on both media coverage and in the party, than the party itself” (Mughan,2000, p.235). He has academic support including (Langer,2010, Webb&Poguntke,2010, and McAllister,2007). There is nevertheless an ongoing academic debate about the legitimacy of the theory. The evidence is often extremely correlative, this is due to “the absence of consistent definitions, methods, and assessments of systemic and contextual variables” (Mansell,2010, p.35). Karvonen (2010) in his analysis of modern parliamentary democracies, including the UK, supports Mansell’s questioning of the evidence of the theory, arguing the data is at best ‘mixed’. The need for further research is therefore paramount in order to satisfy this incoherence.

However despite criticism many academics have found evidence for the presidentialisation thesis. Langer as opposed to Karvonen finds a correlating trend over time. In her examination of Prime Minister’s from Attlee to Cameron, she cites that coverage of Prime Ministers private lives “rose from around 1 percent of the leader’s coverage in 1945, to 8 percent during Tony Blair’s tenure in office” (Langer, 2007, p.57). However as Adams and Maier (2010) and Karvonen (2010) argue, whilst defending the findings, that this is one of only a few longitudinal analyses, with most relying on studies within one period, thus weakening their claims of a trend. The issues of empiricism within the theory is debatable, on smaller case studies a stronger trend does appear, such as with Johannes Bjerling’s, study of Swedish party leaders from 1979-2010(2010).

Farage and UKIP however, provide a strong case study for the prominence of a leader over a party, with polling data being taken in the run up to the election, huge data sets could be used limiting the evidential issues Karvonen (2010) argues. A crude example to highlight a possible cause for evaluation; using “Nigel Farage” as a search term on Google News, gives “15,200 results” whilst search term, “UKIP” responds “36,300 results”, Farage delivers a huge proportion of the results. This begs the question as to whether in today’s personalized system, are UKIP nothing without Farage, or would Farage be nothing without our current personalised system?

There is a case for a new study into the UK as a whole, because of our sudden shift to a multi-party democracy, including minor parties such as UKIP. The issue regarding much of the literature is of scope, for most of the studies the focus has been on national leaders, and opposition party leaders (e.g. Mughan & McAllister). Focussing only on major party leaders, as with the predominate academics Karvonen (2010) and Langer (2011), leaves a massive investigative problem within todays more diverse electoral system. This is why it is important to re-evaluate within the frame of UKIP, as Farage appears to support a presidentialisation trend as Langer, Mughan, Webb and Poguntke argue. Nevertheless presidentialisation it is often argued to suffer from “ambiguous” (Adams, 2010, p.1) evidential certainty by academics such as Karvonen, Adams and Maier (2010). Therefore a further layer of depth of study will help satisfy the debate upon the theory.

The evidential basis for presidentialisation is varied. Many studies are questioned over their evidence and methodology; large longitudinal studies, such as by Mughan, (2000) focus only on major parties. However this allows a gap for the study of fractured non binary democracies. Within frameworks of more fractional multi-party democracies such as Sweden rather than just major parties, there is stronger evidence for personalisation (Bjerling, 2012). This is arguably especially so for the UK which has highly “mediatized” politics (Langer, 2010) and an ever rapidly fracturing political landscape. Nevertheless the evidence of presidentialisation on small party leaders is still mixed. Kreig (2011) found little correlation in his study of German party leaders; however in contrast to Reinemann and Wilke, (2007) found strong correlation of German party leaders. Thus the theory needs further clarification, with Farage and UKIP a strong case for study.

There is a key failing in the current literature in analysing minor parties within personalisation theory. Mughan, Karvonen and Langer amongst others fail to study how small parties are growing through the two personalisation theses of; a) the changing of politics due to the media, and, b) the erosion of traditional major parties. Current understanding, and their focus on major parties, does not reflect the effect Farage is having. Karvonen argues that “major party leaders gain consistently stronger recognition as polling day draws closer, while the visibility of minor party leaders exhibits little change” (2010, p7), this does not fit the current trend, and needs re-evaluating in the UK context. With only around 60-70% of voters sticking to the two main parties in the UK, one asks whether a reason for the main parties lowered vote is presidentialisation, and personalisation. Many voters are now favouring Farage over mainstream leaders such as Cameron, Clegg and Miliband, their perception of all three as “homogenous” (despite Farage’s background being arguably very similar).

The scope for study appears to have gaps for domestic inquiries. However presidentialisation has also been studied internationally upon modern democracies by Poguntke and Webb. They argue that the “overwhelming weight of evidence lies in favour of the presidentialisation thesis’ (Webb&Poguntke,2005,p.346). Nevertheless current arguments centre on huge national differences in personalisation (Kriesi,2011).  This general trend of findings is again based upon only main parties, in a pre-dominantly (in data) pre-recession Europe. This is a weakness within the now fracturing politics of Europe, where the political landscape is shifting. There are also methodological issues, Karvonen illustrates this issue, by criticising Webb and Poguntke’s research as “predominantly reliant on secondary sources, at times bordering on the anecdotal” (Karvonen, 2010,p47.).

UKIP and Farage are a great example for studying presidentialisation within a fracturing parliamentary system. This is because UKIP became popular post-recession, has a strong media presence, and tries very hard to differentiate itself from the main parties. One of the main reasons for studying UKIP is that the political make-up is shifting. UKIP exist within the trend that “the operation of democratic systems is experiencing fundamental change, without any concomitant change in their formal institutional structures” (McAllister, 2007, p.579) a change he argues to be the decline of ‘centrist’ parties because of personalisation, presidentialisation and the powerlessness of parties in an age of absent ideology. Nevertheless this is questioned as the major cause of our democratic shift from the centre, with many believing evidentially and theoretically personalisation to be a much more “complex picture” (Karvonen, 2010) than McAllister et al. argue.

As a case study Farage is a strong charismatic leader and shows the huge importance of leadership over party, the role presidentialization/personalisation has had; and the continuing importance of managing a large media profile both online and off. Most importantly UKIP highlights this public shift away from the centre, or as Kirchheimer labels them “catch-all parties” (Kirchheimer,1966,p.66).

The role of the media; mediatisation and personalisation.

Having your leader in the media sphere is the lifeblood of a party (as Karvonen, Langer and Mughan argue). Farage is a master of getting himself in the media, and will even be on an episode of Channel 4’s Gogglebox next year[2]. However Farage and UKIP are only part of a greater trend taking advantage of, ‘politainment’[3], and the “mediatisation of politics” (Langer,2011,Katz & Mair,1994,Rahat & Shaefer).

Within the literature, all personalisation theories agree upon the importance of the media in presidentialization, and the increasing importance of leader’s personalities. As Davis summarises “news stories, especially television, are routinely framed from the point of view of central actors” (Davis, 1990: p.19). Farage makes a point to be in frame as often as possible; Farage for example has been on BBC Question Time the most out of anyone in the UK (Dimitrov,2014). Academics studying personalisation argue factors such as the “personality of the party leader” (Farrell, 1996, p21) are of great importance to the electorate. One only has to look at the bacon sandwich battle[4], between Ed Miliband and Nigel Farage in the news recently to exemplify this importance.

Academia in this area is much more focussed, but multidisciplinary, from leadership theory and media studies to communications theory. Most however agree upon Newman’s idea of the importance of “manufactured political images” (Newman,1999, as based on Davis,1990). Farage is a master of media communication, with the importance of his carefully created everyman, no nonsense, beer swilling, cigarette smoking self, a large support draw to the party and the media; he arguably makes for exciting television, because of his challenge to safe centrism. Farage is selling a perception of himself, understanding the old adage that; “all publicity is good publicity”, and it does appear to be working[5].

Current understanding is centred on the theory that “the media, and especially television, have an inherent tendency to personalize political reporting, concentrating on individuals rather than abstract institutions or policies”, Langer (2007,p.48). However there is an ongoing debate of what caused political personalisation, (Rahat, Shaefer,2007) blame the “party’s organizational changes”, like the “centrism” McAllister argues for igniting personalisation. However the consensus mainly falls into the (Katz&Mair,1994, Langer,2010, Mazzoleni,2000; Meyrowitz,1985) camp; who argue parties have adjusted to the media’s changing reporting and the growth of television. Farage’s preponderance in the media is arguably because of fascination, however the changes UKIP have undergone cement the effect of personalisation’s perceived effect on the popular vote. Therefore it is arguable that many within the public find Farage different to other politicians, outside the centre and political consensus; and this didn’t happen by accident, and is indebted to television led personalisation.

The rise of social media is an underestimated factor as well in academic literature. Most studies have focussed on analysing television and news media (Mughan, Karvonen&Langer) which in today’s world is not the whole picture. For example in one of the few studies of media representation and UKIP; Dimitrov in 2014 examined populism in the media without examining personalisation theory or social media, this is a trend across all the literature.

UKIP and Farage are a strong case study within this scope of social media personalisation. UKIP has more Facebook likes than Labour for example, and regularly has a large audience on all its YouTube videos, and actively campaigns using Twitter. Reading any comments section of any online newspaper highlights the massive proliferation in support for Farage and UKIP, arguably by supporters (cyberkippers) trying to control the airwaves.

Many academics have argued within the theory, that there has been a shift from party ideology and policies, towards how viewers relate to politicians (Langer,2007,2010,McAllister,Karvonen). Some academics dispute the influence to some degree, with little evidence of an “increasing concentration of media coverage” (Kriesi,2011.p.1). Nevertheless people appear to relate to Farage over the perceived out of touch leaders of the three main parties, as evidenced by the idea that people relate to “non-political character traits rather than professional traits in politicians” (Zamora,2010,p.13, Sarcinelli,1999.). This is supported by Miller, Wattenberg, and Malanchuk, in 1986 who argued that voters “think about candidates in terms of a limited number of broad categories, rather than in terms of a multitude of discrete traits” (1986,p37) simplifying the personality equation.

With the ever “increasing importance of televised leaders’ debates during national election campaigns” (Hellweg et al, 1992, p.2) and ‘…television turning faces into arguments’ (Hart,1999,p.34). Many comment upon Farage’s charisma and populist rhetoric (Ford, Goodwin, Kaufmann, Becket and others), but the academic literature has failed to examine newly formed charismatic leaders of populist parties in the media, within the personalisation framework. As Max Weber (1922) argued, “charismatic leadership”, is a legitimising factor of power, something UKIP profits from; with Farage himself arguably a charismatic shrewd political operator. Farage undoubtedly appeals to many parts of the electorate, and knows how the media works. It is possible he is perceived to be more honest by his supporters, which studies have shown to be the main factor in candidate choice, (Kinder, Peters, Abelson, & Fiske, 1980) and supported by studies in Australia (McAllister, 2000) and Germany (Brettschneider & Gabriel, 218, 2002).

As a case to study, UKIP is fascinating as it bridges both of the outlined reasons of the changing of politics due to the media, the role of personality, and the erosion of traditional major parties. With some of his EU parliament speeches the most popular speeches on YouTube of any UK politician today[6], and his advert for Paddy Power garnering 155,000 votes[7]; Farage has a huge draw. In context David Cameron’s speech at the Conservative Conference 2014 has 61,186 views[8], which would provide strong evidence for the mediatisation and personalisation thesis as a support base for UKIP.

The theories exemplified in the literature all leave a fundamental gap within the rise of parties defined by populist rhetoric which inherently need to be publicised to the masses as Beckett (2014) argues “The public want politicians who represent their feelings about ideology, Farage’s has the ability to embody people’s personal anxieties”. Indeed this is supported by (Meyrowitz, 1985, p.24) who believes “television has lowered politicians to the audiences level”, and consequently who they want as a representative, which often is a “mirror” of themselves (Renshon, 1995. p.201). One can argue that Farage sells, after his debate upon the EU with Nick Clegg, he bounced upwards in popularity from 31% satisfaction in mid-March, to 40% in mid-April after the debates (second debate,2/04)[9].

Institutional change, are the parties themselves to blame for the rise of UKIP

One ongoing debate that could also be addressed through studying the personalisation of politics in relation to Farage is how we are witnessing a collapse of the major parties support, after redefining themselves as “class-mass parties” as Dalton and Wattenberg, 2000; Franklin 2001, and Mackie and Valen, 1992 argue. The literature is generally split in terms of which factors academics feel is most important to the cause of personalisation theory, however many argue personalisation has become existent because the political sphere, has a centralised dichotomy of politics (Karvonen,2010; Hermansson,2010), with the mainstream parties “catch all post-modern parties” (Rahat&Shaefer,2007,p.4),  encompassing everything.

This is in contrast to how people perceive themselves as “individuals rather than as parts of groups” (Bauman, 2001, p.12). Now that there is a gap created for a radical right party, where the conservatives once stood, UKIP’s leadership is the “chief means of engaging the political interest of publics” (Poguntke & Webb,2005,p.21). Many agree that this is a key element of the personalisation thesis, as ideologies have faded, personalities have come to the fore. Therefore within the literature further analysis can provide some interesting analysis of UKIP within this framing idea. Theoretically Persson, and Hermansson (2013) posit this idea in relation to personalisation and presidentialisation for today “voters are increasingly unaffiliated. Instead of basing choices on political substance, ideologies and substantive issues, voters focus on the packaging and presentation of political messages” (2013, p42).

Farage is arguably doing well, not because of his or UKIP’s qualities, but by the mistakes of the major parties in their march to centrism, losing the essence of what they originally defined. As Keith Mitchell MP points out “I am afraid the UKIP leader has a style and a manner of speaking that connects with ordinary mortals much better than professional politicians” (Beckett, 2014). This is an idea academics Barisione, 2009 and Pitkin, 1967 corroborate; perceived “closeness to the masses” has become vital for any leader.

Farage is profiting from the pre-existing weakening of traditional ties between voters and parties (Dalton, 2000; Mair, 2005) and appeals to specific sub sections of society and “the left behind” (Ford,2013). Farage to his supporters is believed to be like them, unlike the mainstream party leaders, a vital support signifier (Caprara & Zimbardo, 2004). There has been a weakening of previous links between political parties, and various subgroups of society since the march to the middle (Giddens, 1990; Bauman, 2006; Franklin,1992). However there is academic derision; with Curtice arguing there is still a trend within partisan party orientated nations to support party and leader in unison (Curtice, 2005).


A study upon Farage and UKIP could reveal a remarkable amount of ideas with regards to personalisation, mediatisation and presidentialisation. So little is known, it is possible a study could show UKIP as a symptom of the end of personalisation, and a movement instead towards ideology again, as social classes splinter and inequality grows. If personalisation produces little insight into UKIP support, it suggests their revisionist policies and ideology are major structures in their support. UKIP could answer the two main questions of the theory, of the importance of institutional change or the media, within a major party collapse. With the changing landscape of politics personalisation needs to be constantly re-evaluated, especially when the evidence for it appears so readily and where politicians must now “not be beyond people”, but “be of and like them” (Renshon,1995p.201).


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[1] Left behind definition – “…older, working-class, white voters who lack the educational qualifications, incomes and skills that are needed to adapt and thrive amid a modern post-industrial economy” (Ford, Goodwin, 2014).
[2] http://www.theguardian.com/media/2014/nov/11/nigel-farage-appear-googlebox-spin-off
[3] As coined by Conley and Schultz (2000) meaning “the collapse of politics into entertainment”
[4] Nigel Farage manages to eat a bacon sandwich without incident at the Heywood and Middleton by-election[4].
[5] http://blogs.independent.co.uk/2014/09/27/comres-poll-farage-as-popular-as-cameron/ accessed 6/9/14
[6] ‘Who the Hell You Think You Are?’ Nigel Farage throws egg in Eurocrat faces.
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2gm9q8uabTsUploaded-on-Nov,26,2010-views=1,386,134 as of 11/9/2014
[7] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uXhLMIDscTI  Nigel Farage Swings for Europe this Ryder Cup Published on Sep 25, 2014 155,831 accessed – 9/9/14
[8] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jgs4UJwWtow – accessed 11/09/2014
[9] Political Monitor:Satisfaction Ratings1997-Present https://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/88/Political-Monitor-Satisfaction-Ratings-1997Present.aspx?view=wide#2013

Fettered Liberalism? A critical framework of the approach of The Islamic Republic to transgendered people?


Image result for iran 70'sIntroduction

“The open sexuality, practiced in joy with a view to the fulfilment of being, gradually gave way to a closed, morose, repressed sexuality”[1]. AbdelwahabOn sexuality in pre-modern Islam.


This essay seeks to investigate the approach the Islamic Republic of Iran has adopted with regards to non-normative identities, through sex change surgery and non-normative transgender gender identity.

In 2008 Iran carried out more sex change procedures than any other state except for Thailand[2]; with a diagnosis of “gender identity disorder” leading to hormonal treatment and surgery, partly state funded, the state exerts control over these binary breaking individuals. With homosexuality and same-sex relationships punishable by death[3], only binary hetero-sexualism is accepted. Although Iran legalized sex change operations in 1987 by fatwa (religious decree), the status and situation of transgenders both inside and outside the system is precarious.

The approach of the government is deliberate, and although in appearance a ‘liberalisation’, it is repressive, it enforces a binary gender system, without space for the ‘self’s’ construction of sexuality or gender. This has led many pre or post-op transgender people into depression, drug addiction, joblessness and prostitution. Excluded targets of society, their families, police and the government[4].

Before western modernisation, and its concurrent institutionalisation of governance and governmentality, Iran, and other Islamic states readily accepted non-normative sexuality and gender. The Iranian Qajar eras’ historical figures of the ‘amrad and amradnuma’[5] exemplify this. Amrad a young beardless man, similar to the ancient Greek adolescent of ephebe[6], and amradnuma an older man aping the amrad, were perceived genderless, engaging in sexual practices deemed both homosexual and heterosexual, with social superiors. Gender and sexuality were in pre modern Iran mainly ‘constituted by the principles which public life was organized”[7]. Thus identity of gender and sexuality were much more performative, fluid and societally based, devoid of a governmental-medicalised discourse.

Iran’s wish to “achieve modernity”[8] has led majoratively to a repressive regime of gender control, with heteronormative society ‘enshrined as a disciplinary norm’[9]. The gender matrix excluding some as ‘disordered’[10] socially, psychologically and physically,

The approach of the inquiry is to highlight the significance of an organised critical framework based upon logical epistemological positions, and their consequent influential role in the theoretical foundation, thusly affecting perceptions of Iran’s approach. As this work would technically be in a post-modernist approach, utilizing Queer Theory, the central epistemological foci will be upon ideas that relate to transgender study, such as gender identity, governance and the power of regulatory discourse.

The essay will seek to explore the applicable research design and analytical techniques appropriate, arguing that post-modern Queer Theory, utilizing qualitative methodology, is most apt. allowing “the researcher to see through the eyes of the people being studied”[11]. To understand the plight of Iranian transgenders, one must appreciate ‘lived experience’, an approach espoused by Queer Theory. By “queering” normalised understandings via the ideas of the “fluidity of gender” and “performativity” one can reveal the hidden problematic nature of government’s actions upon non-binary genders. Exposing a form of fettered liberalism, where supposed freedom has led to crude binary identity enslavement, actioned through the power of the state.

Image result for iran

Therefore the main research area is:

Has the approach of The Islamic Republic of Iran to binary breaking transgendered people enforced hetero-normativity?

With focus upon;

Which theoretical constructions, research designs and analytical techniques are best to answer this research question?


Justification, importance and topicality

Hetero-normativity is a political and cultural norm, categorising a bias in favour of opposite sex relationships, seeing breaks from this as abnormal, leading to gender and sexual prejudice. Partly a cultural phenomenon, like sexism and racism, hetero-normativity exerts hegemonic influence over social and political institutions and vice versa. Hierarchical binaries are created and supported. Leading to problems because gender and sexuality are arguably largely socially constructed[12] and not a binary structure; instead fluid and not fixed[13], leading to hierarchy and mistreatment of what I entitle ‘binary-breakers’. Transgender ‘binary breaking’ people for this study include a variety of non-normative genders, including transsexuals, transvestite’s, genderqueers, androgynes, and bigenders.

This research area is pivotal because transgender people are subject to a repressive gender binary society. Consequently transgender people are often outcast and mistreated, suffering at the hands of society and state. This is in spite of the illusion of liberation, via the legalization of sex-change operations, often hailed as a step forwards[14]. The treatment of transgenders, within the law, medicine, and society, is at best exclusionary, and at worst a form of gender enslavement. With a lack of fluidity forcing binary regimented gender conceptions upon individuals, limiting choice, enforcing injustice, leading to for example, the travesty of homosexuals being forced to change gender to ‘normalise’ their sexuality[15].

Iran as a case study exemplifies the problems for non-normative genders relationships with states. Actions taken to apparently modernize in Iran have actually excluded non-dimorphic genders, a consequence of hetero-normative society and the apparent striving for ‘modernization’; economically, politically and socially. Western influenced modernization, as according to Foucault’s concepts of ‘bio-power’[16] leads not to greater freedom but greater ‘govermentality’[17]. The state develops, ‘differentiated, compared, hierarchized, homogenized, and excluded’ bodies to create governmentable citizens’[18]. This influence spreads through various discourses and their power structures, such as psychology, medicine, law and religion. These discourses imprison non-binary persons into a system where they are treated with suspicion and controlled, in a supposed institutionalised ‘Islamist panopticon’[19].

The study of this topic is vital because the misallocation between perception and reality is great, all the while unnatural hardship is placed upon a minority either assimilated or ostracised. Iran is often hailed as surprisingly ‘liberal’ in their approach to gender by western media, highlighting visits by “patients from Eastern European and Arab countries”[20]. Reports stating that “repression has eased”[21]. However despite these libations, those that do not fit within the states ideal gender binary often side-lined or mistreated. Transsexuals and transgendered people in Iran face huge challenges in terms of job prospects[22], and the constant threat of honour killings[23] from families, within a society that cannot come to terms with those outside the traditional gender matrix.

The plight of an outsider group such as Iranian transgenders puts a mirror to our own societies, shining the lens upon the pre-existent norms engrained through religion, medicine, media, society, morality and governance. The nexus of power and discourse both visible and invisible, both concrete and cognitive.

A central and important reason for studying these supressed minorities in various circumstances is that the legal, medical, religious and societal approach to transgenders has been influenced by codification. The laws in place in Iran are not laws for protection of autonomy, choice and free-will, but instead they are laws that protect the status and classification of transsexuals and transgendered people ascribing values of permanence and rigidity. This powerful discourse pervades many societies, and needs further understanding. Gender and sex are ‘disciplinary power constituting subjectivities’[24] and therefore are influenced heavily by historic socio-cultural construction. The nation’s hetero-normative character and sexual dichotomy, that is modern in conception, means many transgenders are forced into a legislated sexual society, enforcing for some, a form of ‘disciplinary’[25] gender enslavement.

At a major crossroads, transgenders highlight both the lack of homogeneity within Islam, but also that, at the very heart of the mistreatment of transgendered people, is the state, its formulation, and its governmentality. As legalization can equal discipline. It promotes the ‘de-individualization’ of power, promoting the ‘disciplinary’[26] panopticon which guarantees the successful enforcement of the new administrative and disciplinary measures’[27]. Understanding this discursive power is vital, in order to challenge illegitimate treatment of humans based purely on arbitrary designs such as codified ‘sexuality’ and ‘gender’. Consequently study of the “manner in which these phenomena reveal the operations of systems and institutions that simultaneously produce various possibilities of viable personhood, and eliminate others”[28] is vital.

Review of the concepts and themes; and the major epistemological positions & techniques relevant to a study of Iranian transgenders.

Image result for iran transgender

As a unique and under researched area of study, transsexuality and transgendered people in Iran, relies heavily upon modern understandings of sexuality and gender politics. There has been a convergence of research into understandings of gender, identity and the power nexus responsible for the current formulation of hetero-normative societies. Studies upon transgendered people has grown exponentially since feminist scholarship challenged patriarchal heteronormativity in relation to women; utilizing the radical deconstructionist approaches of postmodern thinkers such as Foucault, and feminist approaches espoused by Butler.

The most powerful approaches to transgenderism that have gained credence today, are in the post-structuralist and post-modern paradigms, especially in feminism, critical theory and queer theory, utilizing post-modern deconstruction of norms and discourses. Challenging pre-conceived understandings of gender, sexuality, power and social standing, especially within the psycho-medicalised discourse, and its “pathologization of transgender people”[29]. This approach has been very Western-centric, but can be expanded to the wider political world, and within a socio-historical bracketing to lend weight to the current formations as both a modern conception, and a hegemonic institutional political discourse.

Vital to answering the question, a group of central thematic constructs will be examined, which all factorize the problems of hetero-normative society for non-normative peoples. Appropriate epistemological positions, based upon differing qualitative approaches, with understanding of their differing effects upon theory construction will also be examined, in light of the central thematic constructs necessary to understand transgenderism in Iran.


The main relevant themes and concepts for the study of transgenders in Iran.

Heteronormativity as hegemonic binarism.

“Hetero-normativity” is vital to understanding the repressive regime transgenders find themselves under, especially in a state such as Iran. Heteronormativity is defined as the “cultural understanding in which heterosexuality is the norm and the resulting social institutions are based on that assumption”[30]. This identifies a bias in favour of opposite sex relationships, consequently those perceived to break the system are treated as “deviant” or “unnatural” and pushed into “regulative discourses”[31] in an assimilative hetero-normative binary structure.

Heteronormativity’s role upon LGBT peoples has been argued over in academia, one major problem is many of the approaches engage in universalism, with little interest in historical formation or context in varying state formations and societies. Authors such as Hubbard and Najmabadi have tried to address the problems of outlining heteronormativity as permanent across the world, and not differentiated. Hubbard shows that varied “ubiquitous geographies, and hetero-normativity’s uniqueness of role in different public spheres”[32] effect non-normative peoples differently. Najmabadi highlights the vital role socio-historical factors play in hetero-normative matrixes.

Similarly for this study the focus upon transgenders away from hetero-normativity’s usual use upon homosexuals, requires a differentiated approach, and a more open view for the allowance of sex-change operations. Rich Adrienne[33], Judith Butler[34] and Gayle Rubin[35] all have polemic works upon hetero-normativity, however they fail to examine varied countries and differing socio-religious situations effectively. For this study hetero-normativity will be opened up to other ideas that can inform the specific context for transgenders in Iran, such as historical works, and phenomenological historical approaches as taken by Asfaneh Najmabadi[36] and Deniz Akin[37]. This broader thematic approach to hetero-normativity, with an attestation to the epistemological importance of socio-historical factors will negate the ‘western bias’ of many works, and allow a functioning study of a very different situation for transgenders, in a non-feminised society.

Finally although many authors highlight the social nature of hetero-normativity, by following the work of Foucault on regulated bodies, and with the nature of Iran’s theocracy. The focus, unlike the majority works on hetero-normative as ‘social’ as per Rich Adrienne, and with focus usually on women’s experiences; this study must also take into account Iran’s religious, institutional and governmental nature. This is vital to understand transgenders in Iran, the specific context and epistemological foundations, and the hegemonic pro-binary control the modern state exerts over the people.


The fluidity of gender and gender performativity.

“Fluidity of gender” is a central construct of modern ideas of gender and sexuality, which informs both a criticism of heteronormative society, and of the lack of freedom for self-conception. This lack of self-mastery is especially problematic for transgenders, who may wish to not adhere to a binary model. Within this is Judith Butler’s construct of the “performativity”[38] of gender, and an approach that there are no specific eternal set genders, sexuality and attributable characteristics.

The fluidity of gender is defined as one that is therefore performed. This is a very divisive topic in feminist academia with Janice Raymond[39] and Bernice Hausman[40] rejecting the idea that gender identity can be fluid and performative. This has caused a huge rift with Queer Theorists/Feminists who do as per Jagose[41]. To fully understand transgenders plight in Iran, one must deconstructed gender, in order to be able to understand the position that transgenders are in. Butler provides an important approach to conceptualising gender as ‘fluid’; as opposed to the repressive structure of hetero-normativity though binary or even ‘third gender’[42]. Butler and later others, extended the field in this regard, with her concepts of ‘gender performativity’, related to the socio-cultural construction of gender.

Gender performativity provides that your gender is constructed via “…a stylized repetition of acts which are internally discontinuous so that the appearance of substance is precisely that, a constructed identity, a performative accomplishment which the actors themselves, come to believe and to perform”[43]. This makes gender a fluid concept, one that can shift, not immutable. This is a core concept, as is allows inference into social and institutional circumstances, whilst appreciating the role of freedom of choice, and an understanding of how gender has shifted over history in the Islamic Republic. Consequently hetero-normative states are guilty in their application of a false categorizing discourse, as ‘gender subsumes sex’ and consequently ‘the social construction of the unnatural, presupposes the cancellation of the natural, by the social’[44]. The strongest approach to the thematic categorisation of transgenders will not examine the differences of gender and sex; instead they will be conflated together as Butler originally argued in her thesis ‘Gender Trouble’.

 Image result for iran transgender history

Socio-historical construction.

Socio-historical construction is important to this study, as gender has changed over time, highlighting both the way gender is fluid, and that the state enforces a new heteronormativity, exerting hegemonic and negative powers over binary breaking transgender people. Asfaneh Najmabadi is an academic whose work on sexuality and gender in Iran has highlighted the openness of sexuality and gender in Iran’s past. Understanding this is central to seeing how transgenders are treated today, and how this has changed, putting the modern state apparatus in the middle. As ‘gender is an impersonation, becoming gendered involves impersonating an ideal that nobody actually inhabits’[45]. A construct that changes through history, and which exerts strong control. Thus the entire gender system is a façade, problematic for the ordering of society, an epistemological basis Queer theory espouses.


 Image result for iran transgender history

State modernisation, Westernisation, Governmentality and Institutionalisation and their coexisting discourses; religious, legal and medical.

Bio power, Westernisation, Governmentality and Institutionalisation are key themes that come from Foucault’s investigations into: sexuality, criminality and government. With this study an understanding of Foucauldian ideas of discursive power, and the power of institutionalised discourse lends weight to the continuing plight of transgendered people. Allowing one to appreciate the formation of hetero-normativity and its continuation. Foucault attests that as the ‘the enlightenment, which discovered many liberties, also invented the disciplines’[46] which negatively enforce political control and management; exerting influence over non-binary gender and sexuality.

This regulative control did not exist in the pre modern Iranian Qajar dynasty. Pahlavi came to power in 1925, and the era saw the striving for ‘modernity’, through new governmental bodies and institution; creating a new controllable modern Iranian populace. Foucault’s argues, queered towards transgenders, ‘that during the same period in Europe, gender relations and related power and knowledge regimes were linked to the ‘production of modern governmental bodies’[47].

Increased European interaction in the Pahlavi era brought about hetero-sociality, because of the presence in Europe of women in the social sphere, rather than differing classifiable types of homo-sociality as with the amrad’s and amradnuma’s. Confusion over Iranian homo-sociality led to European misconceptions of Iranian male social action as homosexual, this led to a modern conception of same-sex acts and a medicalised discourse on homo-sexuality where previously it was accepted as an action only not a sexuality. With the remorseless movement towards ‘modernity’ and ‘westernisation’ and the associated ‘modern governmentable bodies’[48]. Classification and governmentality increased and with it gender binarism, and the pre-existing social based gender system of homo-social and non-gender associated acts became considered as a ‘vice’. Those who failed to adhere to the binary system; homosexuals, transgenders and transsexuals gradually lost their freedom as gender entered a self-regulative disciplinary norm, within a regulative panopticon.

This is the key theme of bio-power that; “it is a form of power that regulates social life from its interior, following it, interpreting it, absorbing it. Its primary task is to administer life”[49]. Its required institutionalisation through ‘governmentality and disciplinarity’[50], creates ingrained heteronormativity, enforced through powerful discourses and discursive practices.

The Iranian Qajar rulers influenced by Western ‘modernity’, the prevalence of medicine, statistics and population data all enshrined a ‘binary sex/gender categorisation’[51]. Accordingly a legal framework developed, leading to Iran applying this ‘ideal state’ of binary gender. This presented a new form of sexual power unlike the original negative command of ‘juridico-discursive power’[52] which held less influence upon gender and sex. There is a legal necessity for patients to be ‘diagnosed to get a sex-change operation and new birth certificates’[53] in both nations. This new discourse/discursive power operated not by right but ‘technique’ not by ‘law but by normalization, not by punishment but by control, with methods that go beyond the state and apparatus’[54]. The Basij-e-Mostaz’afin[55] , the Morality Police are one such example of control.

The medical discourse also provides a strong arm of hetero-normativity enforcing injustice. Within Iran the modern apparatus of medicine has not been hampered by Iran’s change into a theocracy, medicine has continued in a western trajectory, but still is parcel to religious determinism.  Iran’s medical discourse is ruled by two concepts; upon the religious idea of ‘jins-e haqiqi’[56] meaning every human body is innately male or female, and the western-rooted modern psycho-medicalized discourse on the “truth of sex” ‘haqiqat-e jins’[57]. The western truth concept based around ‘Scientia Sexualis’ has led like ‘jins-e haqiqi’ to ‘politicise and control sexuality’[58] as a discernible normality. These medical discourses lead to problems both in the medical and social sphere for transgendered peoples. Implying  an inherent ‘truth’ and treat transgendered people as people with “gender identity disorder”[59] fuelling people’s belief of transgenders being ‘mentally disturbed’[60].

Religion is a difficult discourse to analyse as much evidence exists for it to have been accepting of non-normative society before modernisation. As demonstrated with its relative acceptance of non-normative genders and sexualities within the Quran[61]. Indeed, if not for the fatwa, and the jurisprudence of theological elites using the Hadith, Quran and Ijtihad, transsexuals may well still be denied sex change operations. However discourse pervades much of theocratic Iran, with transgenders outsiders, enforced to a new approach of binarism, which the Quran does not explicitly demand.


The main epistemological approaches that have guided study in this area.

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Epistemologically there are a variety of philosophical approaches that can be used to understand the plight of transgenders in Iran. The strongest are strictly post-modern, as they question the formation of the power nexus that influences gender and socio-political relations between transgendered people, hetero-normative society and government. This approach allows reality to be known from the position of transgenders, allowing a deconstruction of power and its perceived certainty as fabricated.

Positivist, quantifiable medical papers have been created from outside and within Iran, although many highlight the issues of transgenders and sex changes, they rely heavily on upholding the categorised values leaving transgenders in plight. Their inadvertent use of the psycho-medicalised discourse engorging the problems which are revealed by “queering” the situation, and using a bottom up model, such as constructivism.

A Queer approach to the research question, analyses and presents the power structures effecting non-heteronormative peoples, and how these structures came to be formed. A “queered” socio-historical analysis from combined methodologies of Tashakorri and Teddlie’s[62] critical theories, emphasizing historical methods, as emphasized by Najmabadi[63], illuminates this sexual matrix shift. With focus on “the examination of the values, practices and interests emanating from particular dominant groups at the expense of disempowered groups”[64], one can see that Iran’s approach to transgenders is both a modern phenomenon and repressive.

Queer theory also allows a strong bond in the relationship between the knower and the known, with a bottom up approach, allowing radical interpretation; and questioning perceived understandings and power. Foucauldian discourse analysis, and case study phenomenology, based upon his work in ‘Discipline and punish[65], ‘Governmentality[66] and ‘The history of sexuality[67] is best utilized. With laws, medical records and reports, documentaries, newspaper articles, and other secondary sources examined for their hetero-normative power and hegemonic discourses, fielding valuable data. Using a Foucaultian ‘discursive’ manner, the discourses apparent will be examined to reveal the hidden power network that has created and sustains the repressive hetero-normative structure.


Interpretavist over Positivist

Interpretavism is the most astute philosophical approach to transgenders in Iran, although less economical with data, less comparable and controllable, it does allow the researcher to be alive to changes which occur, allowing the facilitation of the understanding of how and why. Positivism is problematic at finding the source for transgender injustice, and the social processes that could be causing this; often not allowing for complexity and contextual factors, or the meanings people attach to social phenomena. However there is obviously uncertainty with using a post-modern queer theoretical interpretavist approach. Understanding the role of power, discourse and hetero-normativity, are by nature varyingly unquantifiable factors, which nonetheless provide a solid argument for the maintenance, implementation and existence of the plight of transgenders Iran.

Interpretavism allows the characteristics of the Iranian State and society toward transgenders to be questioned on principle, with arguments based upon the fluidity of gender and heteronormativity utilised, to challenge current policy, and consequently broadening the findings into a powerful questioning of Iran’s approach.

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Critical theory

As a study of Iranian transgenders requires a study beyond the obvious, in order to uncover the effects of political structures and their associated power relations. Its ultimate intent is emancipatory. Queer theory is a descendant of critical theory, post-modernism and feminist theory. With its emancipatory goal to challenge injustice, trying to establish ‘the view from nowhere’[68].

The approach I have laid out, of Foucauldian power examination and the role of discourse, the use of queer theory to challenge hetero-normativity and Judith Butler’s ideas of performativity, all coexist and work harmoniously because they are all within the critical theory paradigm. All these categories overlap, fluid and shifting. It must be appreciated that the importance of perspective is problematic, gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality and geo-politics constrain our understandings of the world as well as our capacity to act within it. This is why a strong theoretical and epistemological basis is vital.

One of the key reasons for utilizing Queer theory with these facets is that it challenges the limitation of human agency, social structures determine an individual’s behaviour” especially in Iran. These ‘structures’ limit or affect the choices and actions of individuals (such as social class, religion, gender, ethnicity, and so on). It is important to highlight that in many ways transgenders are used merely as a vehicle to explore the role of agency in an analysis of hegemonic state control, over individuals. Transgenders make a perfect vehicle to examine this, because they are often at the edge of society, controlled, absorbed or rejected. Indeed an epistemological reason to ask these gender outlaws is because of their experiences being “rich and subtly nuanced discourses”[69] a key epistemological foundation of queer studies.

Critical theory in the Interpretivist model, utilizing culturally and historically situated interpretations using an inductive or theory-building approach underpinned by a subjectivist ontology, is the central approach that will yield justifiable results. Understanding how and why things happen, elucidating meaning, this is the only approach capable of examining this highly contentious and problematic area.  This unique approach allows the method to be shared and repeated by others, in order to assess the quality of the research and the reliability of findings. As this approach can be used to question varied nations in varying social contexts across religion, state make-up and legal freedoms for transgenders.

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Discussion of how differences in operationalization impact the subject

Operationalization is a procedure of defining the measurement of a phenomenon that is not directly measurable, though its existence is indicated by other phenomena. For a strong level of operationalization the formation of the theoretical variables is key. Theoretical concepts are clearly distinguishable, as long as one measures against the ideas of gender fluidity as a core concept. Empirical observations will be limited to interview data gathered from transgenders by varied means. Nevertheless as this is a highly philosophical work in both social and political history alongside an understanding of governmental and social power through discourses, there is a difficulty in measurement. This however is not a problem for operationalization, or the understanding of transgenders in Iran, as the words of transgenders will be used to illuminate the discourses of power and the injustices apparent in the theoretical and epistemological foundation.

Observations will be made, the discourse analysis will be achievable from a phenomenological approach; one problematic area of operationalization is that of letting transgenders speak themselves to support these discursive discourses and their role in their lives. Individual interviews, questionnaires or focus groups could be used, especially easy over the internet. There are problematic issues to this element in, language, perception and understanding, however if achievable the theoretical approach will be born out in the words of those oppressed, and an understanding of how and why this came to being. Contextual data/observations or written materials will provide deeper understanding and create a strong operational basis for the study. The approach taken must answer the question of whether the words of the transgenders mirrors the socio-historical and Foucauldian phenomenological examination of hegemonic hetero-normativity and the role of a power nexus repressing trangender sexual freedom.


‘Transgressors are a fascinating example of how “individuals create, produce, and articulate their gendered identities or subjectivities in relation and resistance to gendered discourses and cultural repertoires”[70]. Hetero-normativity is the application of a caste system that organises and overlays hierarchies upon differentiated groups of people assigned inaccurate labels leading to a less free and ‘liberal’ society. To examine this, the approach of queer theory explicitly challenges this pre conceived norm, with Foucaudian ideas of power the explanatory variables.

With gender as performative one can understand the injustice of this system, and with socio-historical context one can understand its formulation and continuing influence. This is despite these countries governments’ movements towards western perceived ‘liberalism’ within the movement towards sexual and gendered legislation geared towards gender equality, and the consequent apparatus of state. However this equality legislation has fettered gender freedom through the exclusionary and assimilative nature of the codified laws, and the enshrouding binary society.

This problem needs to be examined critically with an eye towards Iran’s socio-historical past, with history effectively Queered and modern society and government critically analysed for heteronormativity. Allowing the hidden to become visible and the realisation that state approaches are enslaving transgenders not freeing them.


N.B – Important books and journals are emboldened.


  • Abdi, M. Ali. Gender Outlaws between Earth and Sky: Iranian Transgender Asylum Seekers. CEU University, 2011.
  • Abu-Lughod, L., 1998. Feminist longings and postcolonial conditions. Remaking women: Feminism and modernity in the Middle East 1–31.
  • Afary, J., 1996. Steering between Scylla and Charybdis: Shifting Gender Roles in Twentieth Century Iran. NWSA Journal 8, 28–49.
  • Agathangelou, Anna M. “Deconstructing sexuality in the Middle East.” Asian Ethnicity2 (2011): 221-224.
  • Ahmadzad-Asl, M., Jalali, A.-H., Alavi, K., Naserbakht, M., Taban, M., Mohseninia-Omrani, K., Eftekhar, M., 2010. The Epidemiology of Transsexualism in Iran. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Mental Health 15, 83–93.
  • Akin, Deniz. “Bargaining with Heteronormativity: Elaborations of Transsexual Experiences in Turkey.” (2009).
  • Blackwood, Evelyn. “Gender Transgression in Colonial and Postcolonial Indonesia,” The Journal of Asian Studies 64 (2005):849-879.
  • Blake, Emily. “Challenging Gender Norms in the Republic of Iran: The Impact of Gendered Citizenship on Social Movements.” Footnotes 6 (2013).
  • Bucar, E.M., Shirazi, F., 2012. The “Invention” of Lesbian acts in Iran: interpretative moves, hidden assumptions, and emerging categories of sexuality. Journal of Lesbian Studies 16, 416–434.
  • Butler, Judith. “Performative acts and gender constitution: An essay in phenomenology and feminist theory.” Theatre journal4 (1988): 519-531.
  • Carter, B. J. “Removing the Offending Member: Iran and the Sex-Change or Die Option as the Alternative to the Death Sentencing of Homosexuals.” Gender Race & Just. 14 (2010): 797.
  • Diamond, Lisa M., and Molly Butterworth. “Questioning gender and sexual identity: Dynamic links over time.” Sex Roles5-6 (2008): 365-376.
  • Dunne, B., 1998. Power and sexuality in the Middle East. Middle East Report 8–37.
  • Fee, Angie. “Transgender identities: within and beyond the constraints of heteronormativity.” (2010).
  • Foucault, Michel. “The Birth Of Biopolitics: Lectures At The College De France, 1978–1979 Author: Mi.” (2010): 368.
  • Foucault, Michel. “The history of sexuality: interview.” Oxford Literary Review2 (1980): 3-14.
  • Furnham, A., Shahidi, S., Baluch, B., 2002. Sex and Culture Differences in Perceptions of Estimated Multiple Intelligence for Self and Family A British-Iranian Comparison. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology 33, 270–285.
  • Higgins, P.J., Shoar-Ghaffari, P., 1991. Sex-role socialization in Iranian textbooks. NWSA Journal 213–232.
  • Javaheri, F., 2010. A Study of Transsexuality in Iran. Iranian Studies 43, 365–377.
  • Kandiyoti, D. (1988). Bargaining with Patriarchy. Gender and Society, 2(3), 274-290.
  • Kandiyoti, D. (2002). Pink Card Blues: Trouble and Strife at the Crossroads of Gender.
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  • Kollman, Kelly, and Matthew Waites. “The global politics of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender human rights: an introduction.” Contemporary politics1 (2009): 1-17.
  • Koolaee, A.K., 2011. P01-540-The view of Iranian counseling psychologist toward working with transsexual and homosexuals clients. European Psychiatry 26, 544.
  • Kronsell, A. (2005). Gendered practices in institutions of hegemonic masculinity. International Feminist Journal of Politics, 7(2), 280-298.
  • Maumoon, D., 1999. Islamism and gender activism: Muslim women’s quest for autonomy. Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs 19, 269–283.
  • Mehrabi, F., Ardebili, M., Bidokht, N., 2006. Sexual experience and fantasies of homosexuals and transsexuals in Iran, in: First World Congress for Sexual Health: Achieving Health, Pleasure and Respect. Sydney, April.
  • Mir-Hosseini, Z., 2003. The construction of gender in Islamic legal thought and strategies for reform. Hawwa 1, 1–28.
  • Moghadam, V.M., 1995. Gender and Revolutionary Transformation Iran 1979 and East Central Europe 1989. Gender & Society 9, 328–358.
  • Nagel, J. (1998). Masculinity and Nationalism: Gender and Sexuality in the Making of Nations. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 21(2), 243-269.
  • Najmabadi, A., 2005. Mapping Transformations of Sex, Gender, and Sexuality in Modern Iran. Social Analysis 54–77.
  • Najmabadi, A., 2008. Transing and transpassing across sex-gender walls in Iran. WSQ: Women’s Studies Quarterly 36, 23–42.
  • Najmabadi, A., 2011. Verdicts of science, rulings of faith: transgender/sexuality in contemporary Iran. Social Research: An International Quarterly 78, 533–556.
  • Najmabadi, Afsaneh. “The Gender of Modernity: Reflections from Iranian Historiography.” Histories of the Modern Middle East: New Directions (2002): 75-91.
  • Najmabadi, Afsaneh. “Types, acts, or what: Regulation of sexuality in nineteenth century Iran.” Islamicate sexualities: Translations across temporal geographies of desire 39 (2008): 275.
  • “Verdicts” University of California Press (2011): 533-556.
  • Nazila Fathi, The New York Times, August 2, 2004,
  • Roen, K. (2002). Either/Or and Both/Neither: Discursive Tension in Transgender Politics. Signs, 27(2), 501-522.
  • Rowson, Everett K. “The effeminates of early Medina.” Journal of the American Oriental Society (1991): 671-693.
  • Shahidian, H., 1996. Iranian exiles and sexual politics: issues of gender relations and identity. Journal of Refugee Studies 9, 43–72.
  • Shayestehkhou, S., Moshtagh Bidokhti, N., Eftekhar, M., Mehrabi, F., 2008. T01-O-17 Family environment of homosexual and transsexuals in Iran. Sexologies 17, S55–S56.
  • Shemtob, Z., 2011. The Criminal Sex: Criminal Law and Transsexuality within the United States, Japan, and Iran. Japan, and Iran (March 22, 2011).
  • Steph, L. (2002). Narrative in Social Research. In T. May (Ed.), Qualitative Research in Action (pp. 242-258). London: Sage.
  • Stone, S., 1994. The empire strikes back University of California Press.
  • Stryker, Susan, Paisley Currah, and Lisa Jean Moore. “Introduction: Trans-, trans, or transgender?.” WSQ: Women’s Studies Quarterly3 (2008): 11-22.
  • Tait, R., 2005. A fatwa for transsexuals. salon. com/story/news/feature/2005/Salon. com. A Fatwa for transsexuals07/28/iran_transsexuals/print. html.
  • Tremayne, S., 2006. Change and’Face’in Modern Iran. Anthropology of the Middle East 1, 25–41.
  • Weiss, Jillian Todd. “Gender Caste System: Identity, Privacy, and Heteronormativity, The.” Law & Sexuality: Rev. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Legal Issues 10 (2001): 123.
  • Woodhead, Linda. “Gender differences in religious practice and significance.” The Sage Handbook of the Sociology of Religion (2007): 566-586.
  • Yavuz, M.H., 2000. Cleansing Islam from the Public Sphere1. Journal ofInternational Affairs 54.


  • Afary Janery, Sexual politics in modern Iran. Cambridge UniversityPress, 2009.
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  • Barale, Michele, and David Halperin. “The lesbian and gay studies reader.” New York (1993)
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  • Browne, Kath, and Catherine Nash, eds. Queer methods and methodologies: Intersecting queer theories and social science research. Ashgate Publishing, 2010.
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  • Bullough, V. L. (2000). Transgenderism and the Concept of Gender.
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  • Connell, R.W., 1990. The state, gender, and sexual politics. Theory and society 19, 507–544.
    • Cromwell, Jason. Transmen and FTMs: Identities, bodies, genders, and sexualities. University of Illinois Press, 1999.
    • Ervand, History of Modern Iran, (2008),
    • Esposito, J.L., 1998. Islam, gender, and social change. Oxford University Press.
    • Faust-Sterling, Anne. Sexing the body: Gender politics and the construction of sexuality. Basic Books, 2000.
    • Fayazi, N., n.d. Complicating Subjectivity and Transgression: An analysis of the Queer Movement in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
    • Foucault, Michel, et al., eds. The Foucault effect: Studies in governmentality. University of Chicago Press, 1991.
    • Foucault, Michel. “Discipline and punish.” Sheridan, Tr., Paris, FR, Gallimard (1975).
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    • Foucault,Michel.(1991).’Governmentality’,The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality, pp. 87–104.. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press
    • Halperin, David M., John J. Winkler, and Froma I. Zeitlin. Before sexuality. Princeton University Press, 1990.
    • Hardt, Michael, and Antonio Negri. Empire. Harvard University Press, 2009.
    • John S. Ransom. Foucault’s discipline: The politics of subjectivity. Duke University Press, 1997
    • Juang, Richard. 2006. “Transgendering the Politics of Recognition.” In The Transgender Studies Reader, Susan Stryker and Stephen Whittle. New York: Routledge.
    • King, D. (1993). The Transvestite and the Transsexual: public categories and private identities. Aldershot: Avebury.
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    • Murray, S.O., Roscoe, W., 1997. Islamic homosexualities: Culture, history and literature. NYU Press.
    • Nadesan, Majia Holmer. Governmentality, biopower, and everyday life. Psychology Press, 2008.
    • Najmabadi, Afsaneh. Women with moustaches and Men without beards. University of California Press, 2005.
    • Nanda, S. (2000). Gender Diversity: Crosscultural Variations: Waveland Press.
    • Raymond, J. (1979). The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male (introduction to the 1994 edition).
    • Rosenberg, T. (2006). Out of the National Closet: Show Me Love. In E. Mortensen (Ed.), Sex, Breath, and Force (pp. 111-128). Lanham, Md: Lexington Books
    • Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. Epistemology of the Closet. University of California Pr, 1990.
    • Smith, B., 1998. The gender of history. Cambridge, Mass.
    • Stryker,Susan. “An Introduction to Transgender-Studies.” The Transgender Studies Reader (2006) p.24.
    • Wetherell, Margaret, Stephanie Taylor, and Simeon J. Yates, eds. Discourse theory and practice: A reader. Sage, 2001
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[1] Abdelwahab Bouhdiba, Sexuality in Islam (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul,1985), p.232.

[2] This has been around 3500 Iranian transgender people thus far.

[3] Iranian Legal Articles 108-113.

[4] Documentary ‘Be Like Others’ (Eshaghian, 2008)

[5] Najmabadi, Afsaneh. “Types, acts, or what: Regulation of sexuality in nineteenth century Iran.” Islamicate sexualities: Translations across temporal geographies of desire 39(2008)p.66.

[6] Halperin, David M., John J. Winkler, and Froma I. Zeitlin. Before sexuality. Princeton University Press,1990,p.123.

[7] Barale,Michele, and David,Halperin. “The lesbian and gay studies reader.” NewYork-1993.p.419

[8] Najmabadi, Afsaneh. Women with mustaches and Men without beards. University of California Press, 2005.p.555

[9] Foucault ‘Sexuality’-[1978],p.43

[10] A.A noorbala, A survey on the personality and intellectual characteristics of transsexuals in Iran., m.d.f-Raisi M.D. Z. Alem-m.s.c

[11] Bryman, Research Methods, 2012,p44.

[12] Foucault ‘Sexuality’-[1978],p.43

[13] American Psychiatric Association has stated, “some people believe that sexual orientation is innate and fixed; however, sexual orientation develops across a person’s lifetime” (May-2000). “Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Issues”. Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists.

[14] Barford,Vanessa. “Iran’s diagnosed transsexuals.” BBC News25 (2008).

[15] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-29832690

[16] Bio-power is the ‘numerous and diverse techniques for achieving the subjugations of bodies and the control of populations’ – Stryker, Currah, and Moore. “Introduction: Trans-, trans, or transgender?.” Women’s Studies Quarterly 36.3-(2008):11-22.

[17]Foucault,M.(1991).’Governmentality’,The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality, University of Chicago Press.p.94.

[18] Abdi, M.Ali. Gender Outlaws between Earth and Sky: Iranian Transgender Asylum Seekers.Central European University, 2011.p45.

[19] Afary,Janet.. Sexual Politics in Modern Iran. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University

Press. Obviously referencing Foucault. p.267

[20] For example The Guardian wrote on the 27/07/2005 that “the Islamic Republic of Iran occupies the unlikely role of global leader for sex change”.

[21] Nazila Fathi,  The New York Times, 2/08/2004

[22] Blake, Emily. “Challenging Gender Norms in the Republic of Iran: The Impact of Gendered Citizenship on Social Movements.”Footnotes 6-(2013).

[23] Carter, B. J. “Removing the Offending Member: Iran and the Sex-Change or Die Option as the Alternative to the Death Sentencing of Homosexuals.” J. Gender Race & Just.14-(2010):p.7.

[24] John S. Ransom. Foucault’s discipline: The politics of subjectivity. Duke University Press, 1997.p.23.

[25] Forcing a gender choice when many do not wish to be a binary gender, as in Iran, is tantamount to my coined term of ‘enslavement’ as Janet Afary alludes too but I label, in Sexual politics in modern Iran. Cambridge-University-Press, 2009.

[26] “‘Discipline’ may be identified neither with an institution nor with an apparatus; it is a type of power, a modality for its exercise, comprising a whole set of instruments, techniques, procedures, levels of application, targets; it is a physics’ or an ‘anatomy’ of power, a technology” Foucault, Michel. Discipline & punish. Random House of Canada, 1977. P.215

[27] Abdi, Gender Outlaws, 2011.

[28] Stryker,Susan. “An Introduction to Transgender-Studies.” The Transgender Studies Reader (2006)p.24.

[29] Butler, Judith. Undoing gender. Psychology Press, 2004.

[30] Maurer-Starks, Suanne S., Heather L. Clemons, and Shannon L. Whalen. “Managing heteronormativity and homonegativity in athletic training: In and beyond the classroom.” Journal of athletic training 43.3 (2008): 326.

[31] Foucault ‘Sexuality’-[1978],p.43

[32] Hubbard, P. (2008), Here, There, Everywhere: The Ubiquitous Geographies of Heteronormativity. Geography Compass, 2: 640–658.

[33] Adrienne, Rich. (1980) ‘Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence’ Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 5:631-60.

[34] Butler, Judith. (1990). ‘Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity’. New York : Routledge.

[35] Rubin, Gayle. (1993). Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality, in Vance, Carole.Pleasure and Danger: Exploring Female Sexuality

[36] Najmabadi, A., 2005. Mapping Transformations of Sex, Gender, and Sexuality in Modern Iran. Social Analysis 54–77.

[37] Akin, Deniz. “Bargaining with Heteronormativity: Elaborations of Transsexual Experiences in Turkey.” (2009).

[38] Butler, Judith. “Feminism and the Subversion of Identity.” Gender trouble (1990):p.11.

[39] Raymond, Janice G., and J. Neville. The transsexual empire: The making of the she-male. New York: Teachers College Press, 1994.

[40] Hausman, Bernice L. Changing sex: Transsexualism, technology, and the idea of gender. Duke University Press, 1995.

[41] Jagose, Annamarie. “Feminism’s queer theory.” Feminism & Psychology 19.2 (2009): 157-174.

[42] N.B Third gender is accepted in some nations as neither a man nor woman as in Turkey however it could be argued to enforce a gender caste system and hetero-normativity as few rights are attached and classification is too crude. See – Weiss, Jillian Todd. “Gender Caste System: Identity, Privacy, and Heteronormativity.” Law & Sexuality: LGBT Issues-10(2001):p.7.

[43] Butler, Judith. “Feminism and the Subversion of Identity.” Gender trouble (1990):p.11.

[44] Butler, Judith. “Bodies that matter.” Feminist theory and the body: A reader (1999): p.235.

[45] Quoting Judith Butler – Fei, JiaJia. “the ballad of nan goldin subversion of gender and photography”, History (2007).p.9.

[46] Foucault, Michel. “Discipline and punish.” A. Sheridan, Paris, Gallimard (1975).p.222.

[47] Foucault ‘Sexuality’ [1978].p.43

[48] Najmabadi ‘Moustaches’ 2005a,p.67

[49] Hardt, Michael, and Antonio Negri. Empire. Harvard University Press, 2009.

[50] Obviously in lineage to Foucault, Nadesan, Majia Holmer. Governmentality, biopower, and everyday life. Psychology Press, 2008.p.151.

[51] Göçek, Fatma Müge, and Shiva Balaghi, eds. Reconstructing gender in the Middle East: tradition, identity, and power. Columbia University Press,1994.p92.

[52] Willcocks, L. Foucault, power/knowledge and information systems: reconstructing the present. Wiley, Chichester, 2004.p77.

[53] Dr Reza Molavi and Dr Mohammad M Hedayati-Kakhki – The Advisory Panel on Country Information (APCI) review of the COI Service’s Iran COI Report, undertaken by of the Centre for Iranian Studies at Durham University, dated 23/09/2008.

[54] Foucault ‘sexuality’ (1978),p.89

[55]Translation -‘Mobilization of the Oppressed’, Morality Police.

[56] ‘The classical Islamic medical discourse’ Abdi, ‘Gender-Outlaws’ 2011.p23.

[57] Ibid ^

[58] Foucault ‘sexuality’-1976.p.53

[59] 3000 have occurred since legalisation, the second most in the world after the Philippines.

[60] Afsaneh Najmabadi – Verdicts of Science, Rulings of Faith: Transgender/sexuality in Contemporary Iran Social Research Volume-78, No.2, Summer-201.p4.

[61] There is no passage in Quran that directly forbid homosexuality and ‘Classical Islamic law in terms of assigning legal rules, inter alia, explicitly recognizes four genders among human beings, namely male, female, hermaphrodite, and effeminate male‘ – Haneef, Sayed Sikandar Shah. “Sex Reassignment in Islamic Law: The Dilemma of Transsexuals.”

[62] Tashakorri and Teddlie’s (1998)

[63] Najmabadi, Afsaneh. Women with mustaches and Men without beards. University of California Press, 2005.p.63

[64] Dieronitou, Irene. “The ontological and epistemological foundations of qualitative and quantitative approaches to research.” 2011

[65] Foucault, Michel. Discipline & punish. Random House of Canada, 1977.

[66] Foucault,Michel.(1991).’Governmentality’,The Foucault Effect: Studies in governmentality, pp. 87–104.. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press

[67] Foucault, Michel. “The history of sexuality: An introduction. Vol. 1.” New York: Vintage (1978).

[68] Sullivan, Nikki. A critical introduction to queer theory. NYU Press, 2003.

[69] Weiss, Margot. “The Epistemology of Ethnography Method in Queer Anthropology.” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 17.4 (2011): 649-664.

[70] Blackwood,Evelyn. “Gender Transgression in Colonial and Postcolonial Indonesia,” Journal of Asian-Studies-Vol.64 (2005):p.859.

Facebook risks starting a war on knowledge

Data access, Facebook, Politics, Research, Social media

Facebook is closing its doors to researchers in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The latest casualty is the app Netvizz, a research tool used by hundreds of academics to gather public Facebook data, that the social network has recently banned. The app has gathered more than 300 academic citations and has been used to produce studies on everything from Norwegian political party videos, to public opinion about the London 2012 Olympic Games, to Asian American student conferences. But now this fruitful source of data has been shut down.

More significantly, Facebook’s action sounds a death knell for civic access to public Facebook data. Inevitably, all apps like Netvizz will be wiped from the platform. The Cambridge Analytica scandal, which saw Facebook user data gathered supposedly for academic purposes but instead used by a private firm for political campaigning, created an opportunity for positive change. But Facebook sadly appears to be making its platform more opaque, unknown and unaccountable to the public.

Once apps like Netvizz are gone, there will be no accessible way of gathering large amounts of public page Facebook data. Facebook offers only highly restrictive search options for normal users. It has started new initiatives to offer access to its data for scholarly research, but these are dependent on a “hand-picked” group of scholars who “define the research agenda”. Without broader access for other researchers, the social, academic and political consequences are dark.

Netvizz offers users the ability to extract basic data from public Facebook pages, such as the content and frequency of posts, likes, shares and comments. This can be used to analyse what users are discussinghow they feel about certain things, or how they respond to certain content. And this can feed into studies on a huge range of important topics, such as how fake news spreads or how social media can affect young people’s mental health.

Netvizz is an internal app within Facebook that uses the social network’s Graph API (application programming interface), a piece of software that provides access to data. Netvizz then organises this data into a spreadsheet format that can be easily read by anyone. Importantly, it doesn’t gather personal data on users. But Facebook’s API is becoming a closed system, meaning that this basic public data is becoming impossible to access, threatening our knowledge of the world.

Without access to user data in this way, it will be a lot harder to spot patterns in what users are doing and saying on Facebook. In response, Netvizz’s creator, Bernhard Rieder of the University of Amsterdam, said: “academic research is set to be funnelled into new institutional forms that offer (Facebook) more control than API-based data access.” He added: “independent research of a 2+ billion user platform just got a lot harder.”

This isn’t just a headache for thousands of academics worldwide. Given the growing influence Facebook has over political debate and behavioural trends, it means that the public could be denied important information that is vital to protecting democracy, social relationships and even public health.

For example, my own research into British political parties’ campaigns on Facebook is set to become much more difficult. Without apps like Netvizz offering a gateway to extract public political content, messages sent to voters during elections will be too discrete to investigate. In this way, society’s capacity to question what political parties are doing is being curtailed by Facebook, undermining democratic accountability and our power to understand politics on social media.

User data can reveal things about political parties. https://www.facebook.com/labourparty/

The questionable use of Facebook data by academic researchers and political campaignersin the Cambridge Analytica scandal highlights the need for new privacy and security measures. But Facebook has already successfully altered API access over the last few years, preventing further personal data from being gathered in the manner of Cambridge Analytica, while allowing research with public data to continue.

Facebook had struck the perfect balance between privacy and access. But the company now appears to be building a wall around its data, not to just to protect users but also to protect itself. And in doing so, Facebook is also protecting the powerful, curtailing our ability to scrutinise and question the influence of politicians, corporations and others with the money to spend on large advertising campaigns. By prioritising privacy over transparency, Facebook is setting up a potential ban on this knowledge.

A legal framework is needed to guarantee Facebook users and researchers at least some access to API data for public pages, especially for those of national interest such as political parties, media organisations and government bodies. Facebook must go further than its current restrictive plans and open its data to help promote research and democratic accountability.

Several petitions have been started, including one I have launched, to encourage Facebook to do this. But a bigger “#openfacebook” campaign is needed that could work in conjunction with similar campaigns to make targeted advertising more transparent.

It’s still possible for Facebook to rethink its data policy in a way that respects individual privacy and limits the potential for data misuse, but also promotes transparency, accountability and independent research. If Facebook does not alter course, it will catastrophically undermine our ability not only to understand the social network machine and its millions of pages, but also the entire political and social order that the internet has created.