Catherine Zehra Sameh

picture of Catherine Zehra Sameh

Associate Professor, Gender and Sexuality Studies
School of Humanities


Ph.D., Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Women's and Gender Studies

Email: csameh@uci.edu

University of California, Irvine
3222 Humanities Gateway
Irvine, CA 92697
Research Interests
Iranian feminism; human rights; transnational feminisms; gender and social movements in the Middle East and Muslim world; Islam; women of color feminisms
Academic Distinctions
Hellman Fellow, 2018-2019
Research Abstract
My interdisciplinary research agenda has developed through three different, often overlapping, trajectories. The first is organized around concerns of gender and feminisms in Iran and the diaspora, social movements in the Middle East, Islam, human rights, and transnational feminist networks. The second pursues questions of gender, Islam, Islamophobia, and intersectional and decolonial feminist epistemologies and political practices. I explore activist strategies, political cultures, and discursive interventions of feminists as they confront a number of local and transnational conditions, including legal discrimination, state authoritarianism, imperialism, and neocolonialism. I have advanced this research agenda through various projects, most notably in my first book, which I finished with the support of a competitive Hellman Fellowship (2018-2019). A third research trajectory takes up questions of immigration, memory, and national belonging through local foodways.

My book, Axis of Hope: Iranian Women's Rights Activism across Borders, locates Iranian women’s rights activism within the long-standing tension between Iran and the United States, intensified in the post-9/11 period by the Global War on Terror, and the ongoing demonization, isolation, and economic strangling of Iran through decades of sanctions. In the course of building local and transnational projects, and by creating and sustaining networks along axes of feminist solidarity, friendship, love, and shared community and commitment, Iranian women’s rights activists have cultivated ways of thinking of and being with each other that rupture the relentless difference-making and violence of coloniality. The activists profiled in my book bring into sharp relief the importance of theorizing decoloniality from the lives, ideas, and practices of activists who continue to build feminist projects within the complex geopolitical processes that delimit them. They present an alternative to the hegemonic framings of Islam and women’s rights as mutually exclusive and irreconcilable frameworks and challenge the militarized and patriarchal nationalisms of both Iran and the United States. Crucial in countering both the modes of despair and cynicism about Iran as well as the dangerous interventions by Western powers “on behalf” of Iranians, the narratives and practices of Iranian women’s rights activists are particularly germane in these precarious times, marked by war, isolation, sanctions, and anti-Iranian and anti-Muslim sentiment as well as by the authoritarianism, militarism, and patriarchal nationalisms that have come to define more and more parts of the globe.
Publications
2021. "Countering Epistemologies of Islamophobia: Critical Feminist Pedagogies," with Azza Basarudin, Sherine Hafez, and Khanum Shaikh, The Scholar & Feminist Online: Transnational Feminisms: Contexts, Topics, Forms, Issue 17.1.
 
2021. Edited Journal Issue, with Attiya Ahmad. The Scholar & Feminist Online: Transnational Feminisms: Contexts, Topics, Forms, Issue 17.1.
 
2019. Axis of Hope: Iranian Women's Rights Activism across Borders. Seattle: University of Washington Press.
 
2017. “Political-Social Movements: Feminist: Iran,” in Encyclopedia of Women & Islamic Cultures, General Editor Suad Joseph.
 
2017. "Solidarity" in Gender: Love. Edited by Jennifer C. Nash. Macmillan Interdisciplinary Handbooks. Farmington Hills, MI: Macmillan Reference USA. 181-196.
 
2014. Edited Journal Issue, with Janet R. Jakobsen. The Scholar & Feminist Online: Activism and the Academy, Issue 12.1-12.2, Fall 2013/Spring 2014.
 
2014. “Feminisms in the World,” The Scholar & Feminist Online: Activism and the Academy, Issue 12.1-12.2, Fall 2013/Spring 2014.
 
2014. “From Tehran to Los Angeles to Tehran: Transnational Solidarity Politics in the One Million Signatures Campaign to End Discriminatory Law,” Women's Studies Quarterly Special Issue on Solidarity, 42.3-4: 162-184.
 
2011. Desiring Change, with Amber Hollibaugh and Janet Jakobsen. Barnard Center for Research on Women. Research report. Access a pdf of the report here: http://bcrw.barnard.edu/publications/desiring-change/
 
2010. “Discourses of Equality, Rights and Islam in the One Million Signatures Campaign in Iran,” International Feminist Journal of Politics, 12.3: 444-463.
 
2002. “Building Feminist Education Alliances in an Urban Community,” with Melissa Kesler Gilbert in Teaching Feminist Activism: Strategies From the Field. Nancy Naples and Karen Bojar, editors. New York: Routledge. 185-206.
Grants
2009-2010 Scholar-Teacher Appointee, Rutgers-Newark
2009 Joseph Fichter Research Grant, Association for the Sociology of Religion
2008-2009 Rutgers University Institute for Research on Women Fellowship
2006-2007 Rutgers University Graduate School Fellowship
2003-2004 Rutgers University Graduate School Fellowship
2016-2017 UCI Illuminations: Pedagogies, Methodologies and Practices of Feminist Humor
2017-2018 UCHRI Multi-Campus Faculty Working Group: “Countering Epistemologies of Islamophobia: Critical Feminist Pedagogies”
Professional Societies
Middle Eastern Women's Studies Association
Middle Eastern Studies Association
National Women's Studies Association
Association for the Sociology of Religion
Cultural Studies Association
American Studies Association
Other Experience
Associate Director
Barnard Center for Research on Women 2010—2014

Last updated
08/03/2021