Liminalities of Gender and Sexuality in Nineteenth-Century Iranian Photography: Desirous Bodies, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Liminalities of Gender and Sexuality in Nineteenth-Century Iranian Photography

Desirous Bodies, 1st Edition

By Staci Gem Scheiwiller


220 pages | 122 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2016-12-07
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Nineteenth-century Iran was an ocularcentered society predicated on visuality and what was seen and unseen, and photographs became liminal sites of desire that maneuvered "betwixt and between" various social spaces—public, private, seen, unseen, accessible, and forbidden—thus mapping, graphing, and even transgressing those spaces, especially in light of increasing modernization and global contact during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Of primary interest is how photographs negotiated and coded gender, sexuality, and desire, becoming strategies of empowerment, of domination, of expression, and of being seen. Hence, the photograph became a vehicle to traverse multiple locations that various gendered physical bodies could not, and it was also the social and political relations that had preceded the photograph that determined those ideological spaces of (im)mobility. In identifying these notions in photographs, one may glean information about how modern Iran metamorphosed throughout its own long durée or resisted those societal transformations as a result of modernization.


"The subject is fascinating and the book is rewarding. … [Scheiwiller's] careful and detailed descriptions of the illustrations and the copious and thoroughly documented captions admirably place the examples within the history of Iranian stylistic deveopments, political history, religion, and literature."

--Woman's Art Journal

"Scheiwiller provides a significant intervention into the field of Qajar photographic history and serves as a timely and substantial addition to the growing corpus of analyses of gender and sexuality in modern Iran….Reading this book and its images is both edifying and thought provoking; the questions it forces us to confront carry resonances far beyond the area of Iranian studies, with repercussions for how we understand gender and sexuality and the postcolonial more fundamentally."

--Art and Vernacular Photographies in Asia

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction: Locations of Desire
  2. A Language of Its Own: Depictions of Women in Iranian Art Before and Shortly After the Arrival of Photography
  3. Corporeal Politics: Constructions of Gender and Power in the Royal Nasiri Photograph Albums and the Photography of the Constitutional Revolution (1905-11)
  4. Collecting Women
  5. The Erotic Spaces of Qajar Photography
  6. For the Male Gaze: Depictions of Masculinity and Sexuality
  7. Enslaved Bodies of Desire: Photographs of Black African Slaves
  8. Conclusion: The Inevitable Witness

About the Author

Staci Gem Scheiwiller is Assistant Professor of Modern Art History at California State University, Stanislaus. Her publications include a co-edited volume with Markus Ritter entitled The Indigenous Lens: Early Photography in the Near and Middle East (2017) and the edited volume Performing the Iranian State: Visual Culture and Representations of Iranian Identity (2013).

About the Series

Routledge History of Photography

This new series will publish research monographs and edited collections focusing on the history and theory of photography. These original, scholarly books may take an art historical, visual studies, or material studies approach. Interdisciplinary books are encouraged.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
ART / History / General
HISTORY / Middle East / Iran
HISTORY / Modern / 19th Century
PHOTOGRAPHY / Subjects & Themes / Portraits
PHOTOGRAPHY / Subjects & Themes / Historical