Omid Mohamadi

TitlePh.D. Candidate
DivisionSocial Sciences Division
DepartmentPolitics Department,
Feminist Studies Department
Phone831-459-4450 (Message)
OfficeMerrill 12
Campus Mail StopMerrill Faculty Services
Mail1156 High Street
Santa Cruz, CA
Omid Mohamadi

Research Interests

Iran, Islam, Postcolonial and poststructuralist feminism, critiques of secularism, and social movements.

Biography, Education and Training

Using contemporary Iran as a site, my research utilizes feminist and political theory to explore interrelated questions on religion, secularism, gender, rights, the state, art, and social movements.  In the last decade, theorists in anthropology and other disciplines have vigorously critiqued the commonplace distinctions between secularism and religion.  Highlighting how secularism is a form of Western epistemology, Talal Asad, Saba Mahmood and other theorists have argued this distinction is deeply problematic because it obscures secularism’s historical, political, and cultural particularity.  

My dissertation, Modernity, Secularism, and the Political in Iran argues Iran is well situated to engage in this debate because its political terrain brings into relief how discussions of secularity and religiosity often fall back on an irresolvable dichotomy wherein secularism is defended without qualification or religious authoritarianism is ignored altogether.  In an effort to move out of this impasse, my dissertation critiques the presumed neutrality of secularism without defending a thoroughly undemocratic Islamic Republic.


The political context of modern Iran since 1979 provides a point of entry for understanding religion and secularism in more nuanced terms. Through an examination of three sites within Iranian politics - a coalition of self-identified Islamic and secular feminists within the Iranian women’s movement, the politics of time in the Islamic Republic, and public art - I show how alternatives to both secularism and undemocratic forms of Islam are already present in Iran.  Their full political complexity, however, can only be understood by moving beyond the tropes of religion and secularism often uncritically deployed by many in the West to make sense of Islam more generally and Iran in particular.  I also trace how the politics of secularism and religion both consolidates and frays the public/private divide within these three sites.  Given this fact, the question of what to do with secularism and religion in Iran is ultimately a question of what to do about the public/private divide.  As black, indigenous, queer, and poststructuralist feminists have shown, more specifically, the public/private divide is animated by a double bind as it provides substantive protections from the worst excesses of the state but also creates and perpetuates different forms of inequality.  Through the lens of these feminist theoretical interventions, I conclude my dissertation by surveying the ethical-politico limitations and possibilities of these alternative political imaginaries in Iran.

Teaching Interests

Feminist, postcolonial, critical race, queer and post-structural theory, early modern and modern political thought; social movements; and Islamic/Middle Eastern politics.