On (De) Colonizing the Subaltern's Eyes: A Dissertation on the Intuitive Experiences of Iranian Women of the 1980's in the Age of Epistemic Exhaustion




Naderinajafabadi, Sara

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This study offers a narrative of the development of the individual and collective senses of the Self of the Iranian women whose self-images have constantly been distorted, dehumanized and suppressed as part of the conflict between various intellectual and political discourses that claimed to represent, give voice to, or bestow salvation or freedom upon them. Through qualitative field research, this dissertation seeks to reveal the hidden yet chronic experiences of subalternity of women who have been robbed of both authentic voices necessary to narrate and authentic eyes necessary to perceive their true states of being. Ironically, these subaltern subjects are educated, urban, middle-class (mainly modern and enlightened) women of the 1980s generation. This research offers and depicts the multilayered structure of signification, representation, and domination – which in its totality, I call “Gestalt,” that deeply hegemonized all the grounds of articulation (the symbolic order) and imagination (the imaginary order) for Iranian, educated, middle-class women of this generation. After offering a discourse analysis of the intellectual and political discourses surrounding these women, I explore the major historical events of post-revolutionary Iran from their subjective perspective. I then embark on qualitative research to register their own narratives of their lived experiences. Lastly, I conclude that in the course of socialization and education, these women's voices of discontent have been deeply immersed in two counter-hegemonic discourses that the dominant Gestalt bestowed upon them: self-orientalist and self-psychological discourses. Colonized under the sovereignty of the Orientalist and androcentric dominant Gestalt, these two counter-hegemonic discourses controlled women’s utterances and imagination in perceiving their radically intuitive (non-hegemonized) experiences. Thus, the Iranian subaltern women may speak but cannot speak differently, even when their lives are radically different from all of the discursive boxes that were meant to frame their experiences. This condition also stripped the life-world of these women of any authentic critical capacity to imagine any open future beyond what has been already lived or imagined. I call this condition “epistemic exhaustion.” All experiences/feelings that could not fit into these frames remained silent and suppressed, and they revealed themselves only through painful, scattered subversions of these women's narratives. Ironically, these non-articulated pains, which I call radically intuitive experiences, shape the only field uncolonized by the dominant Gestalt. This dissertation also offers an invitation to intuitive practices – as the first step toward the decolonization of knowledge and Iranian subalterns – that reposition these non-articulated/non-colonized pains (radically intuitive experiences), as ineffable, unknown, and non-articulable as they are, from the margins to the center of our methodological and epistemological lens.



Intuitive experiences, Iranian women of generation of eighties, Gestalt, Epistemic Exhaustion, Post colonial feminism, Decolonization of knowledge production, Subaltern, Self Orientalism, Iranian Androcentrism, Hegemony and Counter-hegemony