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Caught in the Cross-Publics of the "Muslimwoman"

Monday, September 22, 2014
4:00 AM
Hatcher Graduate Library Gallery (Room 100)

In this lecture Professor Abu-Lughod will reflect on two unanticipated aspects of the passionate and polarized after-life of her attempt to intervene in debates about Muslim women and their rights, through her book Do Muslim Women Need Saving?

She explains, "Although my intention was to present alternatives to the highly mediated, and institutionalized public production of what Miriam Cooke has called 'the Muslimwoman,' first by subjecting the debates to ethnographic scrutiny and second by offering alternative frameworks drawn from long-term fieldwork in Egypt, the work was received unevenly by diverse publics. Responses ranged from near-silence from the target public to discomfiting anger from a Palestinian hip hop group with a feminist song on the one hand to touching personal affirmations from marginalized counter-publics of Muslim women in the West on the other. Marilyn Strathern long ago pointed to the awkwardness of the relationship between anthropology and feminism. This awkwardness may have intensified as feminism has gone transnational and aligned itself with human rights and humanitarianism."

Lila Abu-Lughod is the Joseph L. Buttenwieser Professor of Social Science and director of the Middle East Institute at Columbia University, where she also teaches anthropology and gender studies. She is a former director of the Institute for Research on Women and Gender and also of the Center for the Study of Social Difference. A leading voice in the debates about gender, Islam, and global feminist politics, her books and articles have been translated into 13 languages.

 Her scholarship, strongly ethnographic, has focused on the relationship between cultural forms and power; the politics of knowledge and representation of the Muslim world; and the dynamics of gender and the question of human and women's rights in the Middle East. Her award-winning books include Veiled Sentiments: Honor and Poetry in a Bedouin Society; Writing Women's Worlds: Bedouin Stories; Remaking Women: Feminism and Modernity in the Middle East; and Dramas of Nationhood: The Politics of Television in Egypt. Her most recent book, Do Muslim Women Need Saving?, was published by Harvard University Press in 2013.

Sponsors are the Institute for Research on Women and Gender, Women's Studies, Arab American Studies, Anthropology, and Near Eastern Studies

Lila Abu-Lughod, Anthropology and Gender Studies, Columbia University