Gender, Nation, and Belonging: Representing Mothers and the Maternal in Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation


  • Mehra Shirazi Oregon State University
  • Patti Duncan Oregon State University
  • Kryn Freehling-Burton


Film, Mothering, Transnational Film, Transnational Mothering, Iranian Film,


In this article, we explore an understanding of gender and motherhood in Asghar Farhadi’s 2011 Oscar winning film, Jodayie Nader az Simin/A Separation, as a contested site where the discourses of gender and nation are constantly being negotiated. We suggest that the film’s unique cinematic language represents a significant contrast to stereotypical portrayals of motherhood in films. Also, by using transnational feminist cinema as a framework, we demonstrate the ways in which Farhadi engages with the relationship between gender and national belonging through a focus on borders, space, and place in contemporary Iran, offering a critique of both fundamentalist nationalist politics and neocolonial Western feminist assumptions.

Dans cet article, nous explorons la compréhension du genre et de la maternité dans le film d’Asghar Farhadi, primé aux Oscars de 2011, Jodayie Nader az Simin/A Separation, comme un lieu contesté où les discours sur le genre et la nation sont en constante négociation. Nous suggérons que le langage cinématographique unique du film est un contraste considérable aux représentations stéréotypées de la maternité dans les films. De plus, dans le cadre du cinéma féministe transnational, nous démontrons les façons dont Farhadi explore la relation entre le genre et l’identité nationale en mettant l’accent sur les frontières, l’espace et le lieu en Iran contemporain, offrant une critique des politiques nationalistes fondamentales et des suppositions féministes occidentales néocoloniales.


Metrics Loading ...

Author Biographies

Mehra Shirazi, Oregon State University

Assistant Professor Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies

Patti Duncan, Oregon State University

Associate Professor, Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies



Afary, Janet. 2009. “The Sexual Economy of the Islamic Republic.” Iranian Studies 42 (1): 5-26.

Ahmed, Leila. 1992. Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Alleva, Richard. 2012. “Dishonor Codes: ‘A Separation’.” Commonweal 139 (8): 20.

Amar, Paul. 2011. “Middle East Masculinity Studies: Discourses of ‘Men in Crisis,’ Industries of Gender in Revolution.” Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies 7 (3): 36-70.

A Separation. 2011. Directed by Asghar Farhadi. Culver City: Sony Pictures. DVD.

Azimi, Fakhredin. 2008. The Quest for Democracy in Iran: A Century of Struggle Against Authoritarian Rule. London: Harvard University Press.

Bell, James. 2011. “Scenes from a Marriage.” Sight Sound 21 (7): 38-39.

Cheshire, Godfrey. 2012. “Iran’s Cinematic Spring.” Dissent 59 (2): 76-80.

Haeri, Shahla. 1989. Law of Desire: Temporary Marriage in Shi'i Iran. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press.

Hamid, Rahul. 2011. “Freedom and Its Discontents: An Interview with Asghar Farhadi.” Cineaste: 40-42.

Karlyn, Kathleen Rowe. 2011. Unruly Girls, Unrepentant Mothers: Redefining Feminism on Screen. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Mernissi, Fatima. 1991. The Veil and The Male Elite: A Feminist Interpretation of Women's Rights in Islam, translated by Mary Jo Lakeland. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Co.

Mirsepassi, Ali. 2000. Intellectual Discourse and the Politics of Modernization: Negotiating Modernity in Iran. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Mohanty, Chandra Talpade. 2003. Feminism Without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity. North Carolina: Duke University.

Mulvey, Laura. 1990. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” In Issues in Feminist Film Criticism, edited by Patricia Erens, 28-40. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.

Naficy, Hamid. 2001. “Veiled Voice and Vision in Iranian Cinema: The Evolution of Rakhshan Banietemad’s Films.” In Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls: Gender in Film at the End of the Twentieth Century, edited by Murray Pomerance, 36-52. New York: SUNY Press.

Najmabadi, Afsaneh 2005. Women with Mustaches and Men without Beards: Gender and Sexual Anxieties of Iranian Modernity. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Paidar, Parvan. 1997. Women and the Political Process in Twentieth-Century Iran. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Palmer, Lindsay. 2011. “Neither Here Nor There: The Reproductive Sphere in Transnational Feminist Cinema.” Feminist Review 99 (1) 113-130.

Rich, Adrienne. 1986. Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution. New York: W.W. Norton and Company.

Ruddick, Sara. 1989. Maternal Thinking: Toward a Politics of Peace. New York: Ballantine Books.

Sedghi, Hamideh. 2007. Women and Politics in Iran: Veiling, Unveiling and Reveiling. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Suner, Asuman. 2007. “Cinema Without Frontiers: Transnational Women’s Filmmaking in Iran and Turkey.” In Transnational Feminism in Film and Media, edited by Katarzyna Marciniak, Aniko Imre, and Aine O’Healy, 52-70. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.

Taghavi, Roshanak. 2012. “’A Separation’ Probes Iranians’ Conflicted Love for their Country, Says Director.” The Christian Science Monitor, January 20.


Additional Files





37.1- Transgressing Borders/Boundaries: Gendering Space and Place