“Development, Social Transformation, and Gender Relations: A Comparative Analysis of Iran and Tunisia”
Iran and Tunisia are part of the region known as the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) but over the decades have pursued very different development strategies. Iran’s oil-led development strategy is contrasted with the smaller and more open economy in Tunisia. In addition, since Iran’s 1979 revolution, the polities in the two countries have diverged even more – in Iran’s case, a theocratic republic was established while in Tunisia a Western-oriented republic has prevailed, even after its January 2011 political revolution. In both cases, modernization and economic development have led to the growth of an educated female middle class with aspirations for greater participation and rights, but the capacity for women’s mobilizations for legal and policy reforms has been far more limited in Iran than in Tunisia, the result of (a) the nature of the development strategies in place and the role of the respective countries in the world-economy; (b) the different polities; and (c) the different gender regimes. Drawing on world-systems, world-polity, and feminist conceptual frameworks, the paper examines and contrasts the evolution of development, social transformation, and gender relations in the two countries. Empirical data will also be presented to compare and contrast the two cases.