1st Edition

Iranian Motherhood A Cognitive Approach

By Mohaddeseh Ziyachi Copyright 2024

    This book characterises the problematic status of motherhood in present-day Iranian society – that is, problem in the Foucauldian sense of an object of thought and a source of tension, not as a pathological issue – and explains the historical processes contributing to this problematisation.

    Taking an interdisciplinary approach, the author draws on a cognitive anthropological perspective whilst incorporating ethnographic, historical, and evolutionary viewpoints. By applying this perspective to the current cultural model of motherhood, and considering specific social, political, and economic factors in Iran, the author provides an exhaustive, contextualised understanding of the motherhood problem and its multidirectional changes throughout time. The book follows a multi-method framework and combines qualitative ethnographic and auto-ethnographic data with historical evidence and comparative data. As such, it also contributes to the women's movement in Iran by fostering discussion on women's issues and demystifying women's understandings and experiences.

    The book will appeal to those working in a range of disciplines, including gender studies, cognitive anthropology and Iranian history. Written in non-technical language, and providing insights into the problem of motherhood in comparable contexts, the book will also be of interest to general readers.

    Part I: Motherhood as a Problem  1. What Does the "Problem of Motherhood" Mean?  2. How to Explore Motherhood?  Part II: Problematic Aspects of Motherhood: A Description  3. How is Motherhood Understood?  4. How is Motherhood Related to Other Domains?  5. Is There Any General Concept Influencing Motherhood?  Part III: The Problematisation of Motherhood: A Causal Explanation  6. How was Motherhood Understood in Pre-Modern Times?  7. How did Motherhood’s Conceptualisation Change in Modern Times?  8. How is Motherhood Understood in Late-Modern Times?  9. Why is the Schema of Motherhood as a Project Prevalent?  10. What Makes Motherhood Heterogenous and Controversial?  Part IV: What is the Problem of Motherhood?  11. Final Remarks


    Mohaddeseh Ziyachi is an assistant research professor in the Department of Sociology, Durham University. She obtained her PhD in cognition and culture at the Queen’s University of Belfast. Her research is focused on gender and anthropological studies from an interdisciplinary perspective.

    "At a time of declining fertility in much of the world, Mohaddeseh Ziyachi explores the tensions and debates that shape the way middle-class Iranian women think about motherhood. Ziyachi shows how overlapping waves of historical change and competing social forces create internal conflicts and obstacles to achieving the kind of life the women desire. This book makes me excited about the future of cognitive anthropology."

    Professor Claudia Strauss, Pitzer College, United States

    "This book represents a highly comprehensive and precise cognitive anthropological investigation of the current and contemporary culture of Iran. This research holds both theoretical significance, as it contributes to the development of the field of cognitive anthropology, and practical and objective importance as it addresses political problems and significant tensions within Iranian society. The book is literally a multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary study. Ziyachi has effectively integrated the concepts, frameworks, and methods of cognitive anthropology with historical, philosophical, and evolutionary psychological perspectives."

    Nematallah Fazeli, Professor Emeritus, Institute for Humanities and Cultural Studies, Iran