Micro-Physics of Discipline: Spaces of the Self in Middle Eastern Women Life Writings


Contemporary life narratives by or about Middle Eastern women often portray the female body as the object of oppressive ethical and political governmentalities. This article focuses on the writings of a generation of secular and Muslim women, whose works describe the condition of women as subjugated by sovereign states and disciplinary governments, to examine the politics of space in the workings of the complex interactions between gender and power. To this end, Erving Goffman’s spatial theories on the territories of the self and the modalities of contamination are used to examine the function of political spaces in Jean P. Sasson’s Princess, Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran, Zainab Salbi’s Between Two Worlds, and Manal al-Sharif’s Daring to Drive. The findings indicate that three modes of violations strategically contaminate the female subjects’ spaces of the self: informational preserve, physical and interpersonal. Of all the three modes, physical contamination—such as mandatory veiling/deveiling, corporeal exposure, forced exposure to dirt and appropriation of personal possessions—proves to be the most common. The study concludes that even though space is used as a strategy of regulating the female body, the subjugated women constantly struggle to re-construct different spaces to disrupt the flow of contamination.


Moussa Pourya Asl


Azar Nafisi, contamination of space, female body, Jean P. Sasson, , Manal al-Sharif, Zainab Salbi