Contemporary debates in social sciences are replete with metaphors of displacement such as diaspora, exile, hybridity, and nomadism. In Ways to Survive, Battles to Win, Halleh Ghorashi explores the cultural and political implications of such terms and demonstrates how the social and political contexts of the host countries play a crucial role in influencing the experiences of diasporic communities. Focusing on the life stories of Iranian women whose leftist political activism has led them to exile in the West, she offers at once powerful narratives of cultural dislocation and a compelling critique of social theories that privilege ethnicity over social location.
Addressing a wide range of theoretical positions and social discourses, Ghorashi shows how a community of women in exile with the same cultural and political background differ markedly in the way they come to define themselves in the Netherlands and the United States. Through interviews with Iranian women exiles in Amsterdam and Southern California, Ghorashi shows the dynamic and complex process of cultural identification. In presenting the stories of politically leftist women who became homeless in their own country, this book touches upon the question of how people in exile position themselves in space and time. The Iranian women’s narratives of both internal and external exile contribute to a new understanding of home that is far more complex and multi-layered than is often assumed.
The extensive presence of the author throughout the book as she conveys her own emotional reactions to the research and the women’s narratives also contributes to an exceptional work about what women refugees go through before and after they find their place in the new world. In Ways to Survive, Battles to Win, Ghorashi travels with the women of her book as they tell of their lives past and present. A cultural anthropologist, the author carefully balances her personal perspective with a scientific framework that brings past memories and present challenges in a way that will not be forgotten.