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Call for paper, No. 25 (spring 2020)

Women, Gender and Politics in Muslim Societies: A New Historiography?
  • 1 The historiography of gender is richer in the Anglophone world, with many works on Syria and Egypt. (...)
  • 2 Dakhlia, Jocelyne. 1999. ‘Entrées dérobées : l’historiographie du harem’. Clio. Histoire‚ femmes et (...)

Since the 1980s, the position of women in Islam and in Muslim societies has been a constant topic of concern, and often alarm, in the media and broader public sphere, in Muslim majority countries as much as Europe and North America. In the academic sphere, the disciplines of history, anthropology and sociology have seen a spate of groundbreaking works analysing the societies of the Middle East and North Africa through the prism of gender. Specifically, the intersections and interweavings between Islam, gender and modernity, the interpenetration of different religious and secular spaces for women and men, the reform of family and “personal status” laws, women’s education, the relationship between feminism and activism, and women within anticolonial, nationalist and contemporary movements—all these have been the subject of cutting-edge and path-breaking research.1 In the spirit of the thematic and methodological developments within this rich literature, a leading group of researchers in the fields of sociology and history in particular,2 have come to focus on the imaginary and the practices of the harem and the veil in a manner that goes beyond the image of the “Muslim woman” as a subordinate and invisible subject, and instead helps to elaborate the understanding of women as active agents of historical processes in the national space and especially in the postcolonial national state.

  • 3 Margot Badran and Miriam Cooke. 1990. Opening the Gates: An Anthology of Arab Feminist Writing. Blo (...)

The call for this special issue on Women, Gender and Politics in Muslim Societies seeks to gather contributions around these topics in a manner that focuses particular attention on transnational perspectives, transcending the boundaries of national histories through the prism of women active in predominantly Muslim societies in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. For example, the historical literature on gender and Islam has focused primarily on the link between Islam, gender and nationalism, through the Egyptian case and especially with the highlighting of leading female actors like Huda Sharawi (1879-1947) and Nabawiyya Musa (1886-1951). These pioneers of the Egyptian women’s movement committed to the political and civic rights of women, to ending early marriages and advocating for their right to education, did so as part of a nation-building process. The study of these gender activism pioneers was made possible by the existence of a rich autobiographical literary production of these and other women during this seminal period in gender advocacy. Such works remain an essential and, above all, precursory contribution to the history of women in the region.3

  • 4 Chaudhuri, Nupur, Sherry J. Katz and Mary Elizabeth Perry (eds). 2010. Contesting Archives: Finding (...)

Admittedly, this cohort of early feminist intellectuals represented only a small segment of Egyptian society, largely derived from the families of the Turkish-Egyptian aristocracy and the bourgeoisie, and who saw Europe as an emancipatory model for Egypt to follow. On the other hand, with the partial exception of Egypt, there is a problem with the nature and lack of available historical documents, in which women’s voices are rare and highly fragmented.4 This scarcity creates not only methodological problems but epistemological ones too: we must ask ourselves about its causes, and especially about the position taken during the constitution of the archives, in a context where the social and political authority of Muslim women was often ignored by the colonial power, and then by the nation-states themselves.

  • 5 Lazreg, Marnia. 1990. ‘Gender and politics in Algeria: unraveling the religious paradigm’. Signs: J (...)

This thematic issue of Genre et histoire aims to gather studies that shed historical light on the issues raised by the sociological and anthropological literature, by going beyond the reductive construction of Muslim women as a homogeneous group. To do this, we want to explore the heterogeneity of women’s stories in the Muslim world from the end of the First World War to the present day, in order to deconstruct the social and symbolic meanings associated with this category.5 In particular, we hope that the authors will illuminate their methodologies to respond to the challenges related to the silence of institutional archives, by exploring and discussing their experiences with and lessons from family archives, iconographic and audiovisual materials, oral sources, and other non-traditional archival material and texts.

Among the themes contributions can address:

  • Normative systems and social change (legal and practical issues related to Muslim personal status, civil and political rights, family recomposition, migration and forced displacement).

  • The physical and social visibility of Muslim women (in relation to power, intimate and/or political spaces).

  • Individual trajectories and subjective experiences (through self-writing, in personal diaries and family records).

  • Representations, imaginaries and the performative dimension (in the media, fashion, visual arts).

The writing of history as a history of women in Islam

Proposals of up to 3.000 characters, in English or French should be sent together with a CV to Silvia Bruzzi (silviabruzzi@yahoo.it) and Lucia Sorbera (lucia.sorbera@sydney.edu.au) before 15 November 2018. Selection of proposals will be made no later than 15 December 2018.

The selected papers, in English or French, must be submitted by 30 May 2019. All papers will be peer reviewed before final acceptance.

Notes

1 The historiography of gender is richer in the Anglophone world, with many works on Syria and Egypt. See: Nelly Hanna, ‘Sources for the Study of Slave Women and Concubines in Ottoman Egypt’. In: A. el Azhary Sonbol (ed.). 2005. Beyond the Exotic. Women’s Histories in Islamic Societies, Syracuse IP, pp. 119-130. In the Maghreb, the literature is marked by Francophone historiography, focusing more on women’s history than gender and women’s militancy. See: Dakhlia Jocelyne. 2014. ‘L’historiographie du Harem au Maghreb : la fin d’une histoire des femmes ?’, NAQD, 2 (Hors-série 3), pp. 191-209. On Algeria see: MacMaster, Neil. 2012. ‘Des révolutionnaires invisibles : les femmes algériennes et l'organisation de la Section des femmes du FLN en France métropolitaine’. Revue d’histoire moderne et contemporaine, 59-4, 4, pp. 164-190. The literature on the Maghreb is vast. One classic study is Daoud, Zakya. 1996. Féminisme et politique au Maghreb: sept décennies de lutte. Casablanca. Eddif. See also: Leyla Dakhli and Stéphanie Latte Abdallah. 2010. ‘Un autre regard sur les espaces de l'engagement: mouvements et figures féminines dans le Moyen-Orient contemporain’. Le Mouvement Social, 231, 2, pp. 3-7. https://www.cairn.info/revue-le-mouvement-social-2010-2.htm.

2 Dakhlia, Jocelyne. 1999. ‘Entrées dérobées : l’historiographie du harem’. Clio. Histoire‚ femmes et sociétés [online], URL :http://journals.openedition.org/clio/282 On the harem: Peirce, Leslie Penn. 1993 The Imperial Harem. Women and Sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire, Oxford : Oxford University Press ; Leila Hanoun. 2011. Le Harem impérial au XIXe siècle. Bruxelles : A. Versaill. The literature on veiling is rich and focuses mostly on the relationship between the veil and modernity. See: Nilüfer Göle. 1993. Musulmanes et modernes : voile et civilisation en Turquie. Paris : La Découverte. See also: Nadia Marzouki. 2015. ‘La réception française de l’œuvre de Saba Mahmood et de l’asadisme’. Tracés. Revue de Sciences humaines [Online] URL : http://journals.openedition.org/traces/6256.

3 Margot Badran and Miriam Cooke. 1990. Opening the Gates: An Anthology of Arab Feminist Writing. Bloomington: Indiana University Press; Badran, Margot. 2009. Feminism in Islam: Secular and Religious Convergences. Oxford: Oneworld Publications. On feminism and nationalism in Egypt see: Badran, Margot. 1995. Feminists, Islam, and Nation. Gender and the Making of Modern Egypt. Princeton: Princeton University Press; Baron, Beth. 2005. Egypt as a Woman: Nationalism, Gender and Politics. Berkeley: University of California Press. See also Hopkins, Nicholas S. (ed.). The New Arab Family. Vol. 24. No. 1-2. American University in Cairo Press, 2003; Sonia Dayan-Herzbrun. 2005. Femmes et politique au Moyen-Orient. Paris: L’Harmattan, Coll. « Bibliothèque du féminisme ».

4 Chaudhuri, Nupur, Sherry J. Katz and Mary Elizabeth Perry (eds). 2010. Contesting Archives: Finding Women in the Sources. Urbana, University of Illinois Press.

5 Lazreg, Marnia. 1990. ‘Gender and politics in Algeria: unraveling the religious paradigm’. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 15.4: pp. 755-780; Lazreg, Marnia. 1988. ‘Feminism and difference: the perils of writing as a woman on women in Algeria’. Feminist Studies 14.1: pp. 81-107 ; Abu-Lughod, Lila (ed.). 1998. Remaking Women: Feminism and Modernity in the Middle East. Princeton: Princeton University Press; Abu-Lughod, Lila. 1987. Veiled Sentiments: Honor and Poetry in a Bedouin Society. Berkeley: University of California Press.

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