Lecture 2. Iranian Domesticity and Gender in the Cold War: A Case Study of Non-Western Home through a Global lens

created by:

Pamela Karimi

from the module:

Domesticity Across Space and Time

This lecture is prepared for Domesticity across Space and Time Module of GAHTC. The main sources that were used are listed below and are required reading. This lecture shows how larger policies of the Cold War and the Iranian government influenced domesticity. Something as simple as new ways of cleaning the house can be traced to America’s exercise of “quiet diplomacy” in Iran. Revisiting this era fosters understanding of the culture and daily life of people not just in Iran but in the Middle East in general. Numerous scholars, including historian Rashid Khalidi, have noted that the cultural crises of today are in part the legacy of Cold War policies in the region. Despite this, with a few exceptions, there has been no extensive study of the influence of such policies on the material culture of the Middle East and Iran, in particular. After World War II, the Truman administration’s Point IV Program exported American home life, establishing home-economics schools for Iranian girls that included not only new curricula, but also actual model homes. Over the next couple of decades, U.S. exports to Iran expanded to the point that, by the second half of the 1970s, the Iranian market was saturated with American products. These were increasingly advertised in the popular press and women’s magazines. The content of such publications was drawn mostly from Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, and similar magazines, while illustrations equally derived from Western sources and depicted Anglo-American characters and settings. Iranians did not adopt these imported ideas wholesale. They often confronted the American dream in their own creative ways. Whereas some owners modernized their traditional homes, others made their modern homes more traditional. In the broader, global context, this lecture shows how the governments of numerous other countries joined the American-led Western alliance in a sharply divided Cold War world. The examples this presentation provides are found in East and West Germany as well as Turkey. Such examples are compared to similar cases in Iran. The aim of this lecture is to encourage the discussion of the numerous ways in which an Americanized lifestyle penetrated many countries, in both the developing and developed world and even socialist countries like East Germany. These changes happened in the name of reform for women and greater efficiency in their lives. However, in all case studies the Americanization of consumer culture predominantly served the broader US Cold War propaganda. In Islamic countries (e.g., Turkey and Iran) the imported models of a home and its content served mostly the ideology of the Cold War rather than bringing true reform. Particularly in Iran the poor did not benefit from these programs while many others resisted these changes, as they found them in contrast to their traditional ways of life.

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