Date of Award

Spring 5-6-2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Art and Design

First Advisor

Dr. Maria Gindhart

Second Advisor

Dr. John Decker

Third Advisor

Dr. Susan Richmond


This thesis analyzes Shirin Neshat’s Women of Allah photographs by exploring key socio-political events that have shaped Iranian history since the reign of Cyrus the Great, ca. 600 B.C. Since Neshat’s photographs have been largely intended for a Western audience, it is important to explore the concept of colonialism that has created East/West polarities and so greatly influenced our modern era. This paper intends to demonstrate that Neshat’s images perpetuate Edward Said’s concept of Orientalism, which allocates the Oriental to an inferior position vis-à-vis his Occidental counterpart. For a Western audience, Neshat’s consistent use of the Muslim veil, illegible Persian calligraphy, and guns symbolizes Islam’s violence and degeneracy; additionally, these elements position the Muslim woman as a subaltern entity in an archaic society. As a result, the Iranian Muslim woman remains restricted by her social, cultural, and religious praxis, as well as by Neshat’s formal and contextual depiction of her.