Sunday 31 May 2020

GENDER & ISLAM: Interview with Lila Abu-Lughod

Lila Abu-Lughod is one of the leading anthropologists studying women in the Muslim world. Based at Columbia University in New York, she made a name with her studies of Bedouin women, but in books like Do Muslim women need saving?, she  has also engaged with more generic, politically charged, topics.

She was recently interviewed by the Jadaliyya Website about teaching Gender & Islam in the Middle East:

Here is a brief excerpt:
I find two tactics useful in teaching. First, I insist on historicizing. What are the major political transformations of the worlds we are studying? What is the history of the present? The dynamics of colonialism and anti-colonial nationalisms, as well as violence of current wars and occupations are crucial. Their impacts on the organization of gender, women’s possibilities, and the meanings of sexuality are profound and complex. I like to surprise students too by introducing matter-of-factly the long regional histories (and class politics, of course) of activist projects for legal reform, schooling, religious reform, and political enfranchisement—what students might understand as other histories of feminism.
Second, and a bit more consistent with my anthropological commitments to learning about “other” worlds, I insist that students immerse themselves in the lives and texts of those whose reference points and ideals may be quite foreign to them. From precarious Yemeni plantation workers being cured of possession to Iranian youth being lectured by Ali Shariati on how Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet, should be their guide for revolutionary womanhood, I want them to confront and take seriously the unfamiliar. There are moral and intellectual worlds out there that challenge their everyday assumptions, values, and judgements. This is humbling. And it can be humbling even for students whose family backgrounds link them to the region. They rarely know much about the multiple worlds in which different communities live or the variety of aspirations they have.  
To read the full interview, click here