Arzoo Osanloo


United States

Known for

Associate Professor at the University of Washington and Activist


Hijri Unknown-Present (AH); Common Era Unknown-Present (CE)

Arzoo Osanloo


Arzoo Osanloo is an associate professor at the University of Washington. She teaches in the Law, Societies, and Justice Program and also holds adjunct appointments in the Law, Anthropology, Near Eastern Languages and Civilization, Women’s Studies and Comparative Religion departments. Before receiving her PhD in Cultural Anthropology from Stanford University in 2002, Arzoo was a practicing immigration and asylum attorney. Her experience working with refugees and asylum seekers compelled her to study the “fraught but often neglected relationship between ‘culture’ and ‘rights’.” She has written that understanding activist work from an academic perspective enabled her to better “advocate for the humanity and dignity of people in other societies.”1 As she explains, “I wanted to study anthropology to be a better human rights activist by focusing on the question of how we understand others’ so-called ‘cultural practices.’”2 Focusing primarily on the Middle East, Arzoo has both researched and taught courses in human rights, refugee rights, comparative religion and women’s rights in Muslim-majority societies. Much of her scholarly work focuses on how “cultural practices” shape our ways of knowing and understanding.3 Her first book, The Politics of Women’s Rights in Iran, was an ethnographic study of women’s rights discourse in Iran. In understanding women in the post-revolutionary era, the book seeks to move beyond “uninterrogated stereotypes of Muslim women” and instead attempts to show how Iranian women perceive and claim legal rights themselves.4 Currently, Arzoo is continuing research on human rights discourse in a new project on the Islamic mandate of forgiveness, compassion and mercy among pious Muslims.5   [1] “Arzoo Osanloo”, [2] Sunan of Abu-Dawood: Paradise Is At the Feet of Mothers [3] Al-Tirmidhi [4] 2:233 [5] Amina Wadud. Islam Beyond Patriarchy Through Gender Inclusive Quranic Analysis [6] Chandrakirana, Kamala. Women’s Place and Displacement in the Muslim Family: Realities from the Twenty First Century. [7] ibid.