Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dr. Donald M. Reid - Committee Chair

Second Advisor

Dr. Emanuela Guano - Committee Member

Third Advisor

Dr. Ian C. Fletcher - Committee Member


During the interwar period in Iran and Egypt, local and regional manifestation of tajadod/al-jidida (modernity) as a “cultural identity crisis” created the nationalist image and practice of zan-e emrouzi-e shahri/al-mar’a al-jidida al-madani (the urban/secular “New Woman”). The dynamics of the process involved performance art, including the covert medium of journalism and the overt world of the performing arts of music, play, and cinema. The image of the “New Woman” as asl/al-asala (cultural authenticity) connected sonnat/al-sunna (tradition) with the global trends of modernism, linking pre-nineteenth century popular forms of performing arts to new genres, forms, and social experiences of the space of the performing arts. The subversive transnational character of performance art operated across borders to promote both the discourse of modern womanhood in-the-making among intellectuals, and the public practice of women’s presence among the masses. However, the trans-border effects of the medium were limited by local cultural and political ideologies of nationalism. The spectacle of women on the screen addressed national independence and the creation of a national film industry to resist the financial dominance of Europeans. In Iran, zan-e emrouzi-e shahri served the project of founding a modern nation-state, elevating of a culture of the city and urban development, and institutionalizing performing arts, mirroring the upholding of “male-guardianship.” In Egypt, in the absence of an authoritarian modern state and long-term experience of foreign occupations, al-mar’a al-jidida al-madani accompanied the traditional figure of bint al-balad (the countryside girl) to present modern advancements in film production with a traditional accent, to oppose European cultural values, to provide a tangible space for women’s multifaceted anti-colonial maneuvering, and to connect Egypt’s past history to its future. Performance art helped women to convey their cultural nationalism and a sense of imagined identity by letting them see and be seen by each other, create interactions between the artist and the audience, and emphasize music as the heart of a society’s culture and art. A culture of body performance, a female visual public sphere, and a feminine (and feminist) interpretation of cultural authenticity in performance art led women to claim the profession as a legitimate career.


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