Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: Women, self and life transformation in an Iranian spiritual movement "Inter-universal Mysticism" : a feminist perspective
Author: Eftekhar Khansari, Tina
ISNI:       0000 0004 2744 7240
Awarding Body: University of York
Current Institution: University of York
Date of Award: 2013
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Access from Institution:
The thesis explores how Iranian women who participate in Inter-universal Mysticism understand their everyday lives in relation to their spiritual practices. Inter-universal Mysticism is a movement developed over the last thirty years in Iran by Mohammad Ali Taheri which focuses on assisting people to achieve spiritual perfection and transcendence. Although Inter-universal Mysticism can be universally practiced by people of any faith, it is in fact a distinguishing development in the Iranian spiritual tradition, and is an example of a new dissident approach to spirituality and religious issues. The thesis focuses on women’s involvement in this movement through a set of distinctive questions. It asks: 1. Given that women make up the majority of people on the Inter-universal Mysticism path, what can assessing these women’s lives reveal about the daily challenges faced by women in Iran, particularly in their family relationships?; 2. What are the affiliations and tensions between this movement and Iranian Islamic ideas and practices, as understood by women in the path?; and 3. Even though the term ‘feminism’ is largely rejected by Iranian women and viewed as an undesirable ‘western’ import, how might feminist theories, particularly those dealing with empowerment and selfhood, help in understanding how these women manage their lives?. The central argument of the thesis is that women’s participation in this movement enables them both to manage the historically embedded patriarchal structures of Iranian society and culture, and to deal with a state which is highly interventionist around issues of gender, religion and culture. The research is based on interviews with 55 women in the movement, together with focus groups and observations, conducted in three cities in Iran – Tehran, Yazd and Mashhad – during 2010. The key findings are that women identified Inter-universal Mysticism as an easily-accessible space in which difficult life and health problems could be alleviated, conflicts between religious belief and identity facing them in late modernity can be negotiated, and their agency can be enhanced. The insights and spiritual practices offered on this path are perceived of as supporting women’s search for change to help them improve or at least cope more effectively with their daily lives, to resist negative views of women within a family and societal context, and to work towards forms of self-identity and self-improvement. Through assessing these women’s relationship to their spirituality, the thesis contributes to knowledge of how the spiritual and the material interacts to transform women’s self and life. The theoretical negotiations with feminism open a dialogue among feminists and women’s activists in Iran, which could challenge and transform existing power relations in Iranian society. On the basis of this analysis, it is possible to propose some entirely new perspectives on the relationship between spirituality, gender and the circumstances of contemporary Iranian women, which challenge binary distinctions between ‘secular’ and ‘Islamic’ approaches to these matters.
Supervisor: de Groot, Joanna ; Kaloski Naylor, Ann Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available