Dr. Nazanin Shahrokni is our new Associate Professor in the School for International Studies.


Welcome new faculty member, Dr. Nazanin Shahrokni

August 08, 2023

The School for International Studies proudly welcomes Dr. Nazanin Shahrokni as our new Associate Professor! An award-winning author and scholar, Shahrokni’s research delves into the captivating world ofgender politics, globalization, feminist geography and ethnographies of the state in Iran, the Middle East, and beyond. 

Shahrokni traces the seeds of what eventually culminated in her interest in feminist geography to her childhood. With paternal roots in Dezful, a city in the Khuzestan province of Iran, Shahrokni was brought up hearing stories about city life from her Dezfuli relatives. What intrigued her most were the starkly different experiences that men and women had of the same city.

The city built in front of my eyes through the words of my female relatives did not quite match the images constructed by the male relatives. This ‘discrepancy’ alerted me to the differential relationships we have with space and place, and the multitude of visible and invisible gender boundaries animating them,” Shahrokni recalls.

Having grown up in postrevolutionary Iran, she witnessed firsthand the profound changes brought about by the new government after 1979.

“I experienced the Islamic Republic reshaping city spaces, segregating them along gender lines, attaching itself to everyday spaces and ‘things,’ projecting and deriving its power by giving them new meanings, by forbidding or enabling access to them.” 

For almost a decade, Shahrokni worked at Zanan Magazine, a major feminist publication in Iran, documenting and writing on how the role of women was steadily shifting in the public and domestic space. This led her to explore the complex dynamics at play between space, politics, and gendered bodies, eventually becoming the cornerstone of her research.

Shahrokni examines the everyday lives of women in Iranian society through the lens of an ethnographer, utilizing methods which involves immersing oneself in the community, observing, and recording their way of life from a local perspective. This ethnographic lens has also allowed her to probe into the ways in which the state consolidates its grip over women’s bodies by pinning itself down in everyday practices.

Her book, Women in Place: The Politics of Gender Segregation in Iran, seeks to capture a more nuanced picture of "the Iranian woman" and recover the histories of agency that have been erased by the Islamic Republic and internationally. Shahrokni throws into sharp relief the ways in which the state strives to constantly regulate and contain women’s bodies and movements within the boundaries of the ‘proper’ but simultaneously invests in and claims credit for their expanded access to public spaces.

She is currently working on a project titled Exclusive Rides, Inclusive Roads: Gender and the Politics of Mobility in a Global Context, a historical dive into the development of women-only taxi initiatives in Mexico City, London, Dubai, and Kuala Lumpur. 

“This transregional focus was prompted by my interest in breaking the walls of regional studies by looking at ‘women only’ spaces,” Shahrokni says, “not only in Middle Eastern contexts, but in various national settings, as well as times.”

On the other hand, the link between spaces and gendered bodies in Iran continues to fascinate her. Her next book explores how women athletes' bodies are implicated in national and international politics, while also showcasing how these athletes use the opportunities that sports events afford them to challenge what is prescribed for them by national, international, and corporate actors.

Shahrokni's attraction to the School for International Studies at SFU stems from the vibrant diversity and broad perspectives it offers. Eagerly anticipating engaging with students and academics, she is excited about delving into pressing global challenges and sparking fresh transregional and interdisciplinary dialogues. Collaborating with colleagues across the university, particularly those affiliated with the Center for Comparative Muslim Studies, is a prospect she is especially looking forward to. 

In Spring 2024, Dr. Nazanin Shahrokni will be teaching two courses: IS 221, an undergraduate course, will explore globalization, labour, and uneven development of workers in the global economy. Meanwhile, IS 830, will offer graduate students an opportunity to explore different methodological and analytical approaches to International Studies.

Read her faculty profile here.