Tag Archives: Women

Herringer, “Victorians and the Virgin Mary: Religion and Gender in England 1830-85″

Next month, Manchester University Press will publish Victorians and the Virgin Mary: Religion and Gender in England 1830-85 by Carol Engelhardt Herringer (Wright State University). The publisher’s description follows.

This interdisciplinary study of competing representations of the Virgin Mary examines how anxieties about religious and gender identities intersected to create public controversies that, whilst ostensibly about theology and liturgy, were also attempts to define the role and nature of women. Drawing on a variety of sources, this book seeks to revise our understanding of the Victorian religious landscape, both retrieving Catholics from the cultural margins to which they are usually relegated, and calling for a reassessment of the Protestant attitude to the feminine ideal. This book will be useful to advanced students and scholars in a variety of disciplines including history, religious studies, Victorian studies, women’s history and gender studies.

Mangion, “Contested Identities”

Next month, Manchester University Press will publish Contested Identities by Carmen Mangion (Birkbeck College, University of London). The publisher’s description follows.

English Roman Catholic women’s congregations are an enigma of nineteenth-century social history. Over ten thousand nuns and sisters, establishing and managing significant Catholic educational, health care and social welfare institutions in England and Wales, have virtually disappeared from history. Despite their exclusion from historical texts, these women featured prominently in the public and private sphere. Intertwining the complexities of class with the notion of ethnicity, Contested identities examines the relationship between English and Irish-born sisters. This study is relevant not only to understanding women religious and Catholicism in nineteenth-century England and Wales, but also to our understanding of the role of women in the public and private sphere, dealing with issues still resonant today. Contributing to the larger story of the agency of nineteenth-century women and the broader transformation of English society, this book will appeal to scholars and students of social, cultural, gender and religious history.

Korteweg & Yurdakul, “The Headscarf Debates”

Next month, Stanford University Press will publish The Headscarf Debates by Anna C. Korteweg (University of Toronto) and Gökçe Yurdakul (Humboldt University of Berlin).  The publisher’s description The Headscarf Debatesfollows.

The headscarf is an increasingly contentious symbol in countries across the world. Those who don the headscarf in Germany are referred to as “integration-refusers.” In Turkey, support by and for headscarf-wearing women allowed a religious party to gain political power in a strictly secular state. A niqab-wearing Muslim woman was denied French citizenship for not conforming to national values. And in the Netherlands, Muslim women responded to the hatred of popular ultra-right politicians with public appeals that mixed headscarves with in-your-face humor. In a surprising way, the headscarf—a garment that conceals—has also come to reveal the changing nature of what it means to belong to a particular nation.

All countries promote national narratives that turn historical diversities into imagined commonalities, appealing to shared language, religion, history, or political practice. The Headscarf Debates explores how the headscarf has become a symbol used to reaffirm or transform these stories of belonging. Anna Korteweg and Gökçe Yurdakul focus on France, Germany, and the Netherlands—countries with significant Muslim-immigrant populations—and Turkey, a secular Muslim state with a persistent legacy of cultural ambivilance. The authors discuss recent cultural and political events and the debates they engender, enlivening the issues with interviews with social activists, and recreating the fervor which erupts near the core of each national identity when threats are perceived and changes are proposed.

The Headscarf Debates pays unique attention to how Muslim women speak for themselves, how their actions and statements reverberate throughout national debates. Ultimately, The Headscarf Debatesbrilliantly illuminates how belonging and nationhood is imagined and reimagined in an increasingly global world.

Iqtidar, “Secularizing Islamists?: Jama’at-e-Islami and Jama’at-ud-Da’wa in Urban Pakistan”

Next month, the University of Chicago Press will publish Secularizing Islamists?: Jama’at-e-Islami and Jama’at-ud-Da’wa in Urban Pakistan by Humeira Iqtidar (Kings College London). The publisher’s description follows.Secularizing Islamists?

Secularizing Islamists? provides an in-depth analysis of two Islamist parties in Pakistan, the highly influential Jama‘at-e-Islami and the more militant Jama‘at-ud-Da‘wa, widely blamed for the November 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai, India. Basing her findings on thirteen months of ethnographic work with the two parties in Lahore, Humeira Iqtidar proposes that these Islamists are involuntarily facilitating secularization within Muslim societies, even as they vehemently oppose secularism.

 This book offers a fine-grained account of the workings of both parties that challenges received ideas about the relationship between the ideology of secularism and the processes of secularization. Iqtidar particularly illuminates the impact of women on Pakistani Islamism, while arguing that these Islamist groups are inadvertently supporting secularization by forcing a critical engagement with the place of religion in public and private life. She highlights the role that competition among Islamists and the focus on the state as the center of their activity plays in assisting secularization. The result is a significant contribution to our understanding of emerging trends in Muslim politics.

Vakulenko, “Islamic Veiling in Legal Discourse”

9780415565509This December, Routledge will publish Islamic Veiling in Legal Discourse by Anastasia Vakulenko (Birmingham Law School). The publisher’s description follows.

Islamic Veiling in Legal Discourse looks at relevant law and surrounding discourses in order to examine the assumptions and limits of the debates around the issue of Islamic veiling that has become so topical in recent years. For some, Islamic veiling indicates a lack of autonomy, the oppression of women and the threat of Islamic radicalism to western secular values. For others, it suggests a positive autonomous choice, a new kind of gender equality and a legitimate exercise of one’s freedom of religion – a treasured right in democratic societies. This book finds that, across seemingly diverse legal and political traditions, a set of discursive frameworks – the preoccupation with autonomy and choice; the imperative of gender equality; and a particular western understanding of religion and religious subjectivity – shape the positions of both proponents and opponents of various restrictions on Islamic veiling. Rather than take a position on one or the other side of the debate, the book focuses on the frameworks themselves, highlighting their limitations.

À Nous la Liberté

Riots broke out in a Paris suburb this weekend after police ticketed a woman wearing the full Islamic veil, or burqa, on a local street. Since 2011, France has banned the burqa in public places on pain of a €150 fine. The details of this weekend’s incident are unclear, but police apparently asked the woman to remove her veil as part of an identity check. An altercation ensued, and the woman’s husband allegedly assaulted the officers. The officers then arrested the husband, and in response at least 250 people besieged the local police station, throwing fireworks and setting refuse bins and vehicles on fire. According to France 24, four police officers have been injured. The violence has continued for three nights.

The burqa ban has been controversial from the beginning. Supporters argue that it’s a necessary safety measure: terrorists could use the burqa as a disguise. But, observing the debate from this side of the Atlantic, safety issues don’t seem central. Most of the emotion in the debate relates to the burqa’s symbolic impact. The French Right supports the ban because the burqa suggests the presence of an alien culture that refuses to be French. The Left is divided. Some on the Left support the ban because the burqa suggests the subjugation of women; others argue that the burqa controversy is a sideshow to distract from France’s real social problems. And of course many French Muslims–though not all–see the ban as evidence of racism and  Islamophobia. Not to mention a violation of religious freedom.

Behind the controversy is a debate about the meaning of laïcité, that peculiarly French contribution to law and religion. Often translated loosely as “secularism,” laïcité is one of the foundations of French republicanism. But its meaning is, and always has been, contested. On one view, laïcité means only that the state should have no official ties to religion and that citizens should be free to follow whatever religion they wish. On this understanding, the ban is problematic. What legitimate reason does a liberal state have for banning religious dress in public? (A liberal state, note — not a state with a religious foundation or a “thick” conception of the public good). Public safety, surely: but the French government doesn’t ban knapsacks or raincoats, which pose greater risks. What about the fact that some women are forced to wear the burqa by family members? That’s a legitimate state concern, too. But there must be ways to address that concern that don’t involve forbidding public religious expression by women who do wish to wear the veil.

Perhaps laïcité means something different, though, something more aggressive. Perhaps laïcité requires a naked public square, in order to rid society of the influence of religions that stand in the way of progress. This view has a long lineage in France as well. Rousseau, recall, taught that society must force people to be free. On this view of laïcité, the burqa ban makes more sense. The burqa is forbidden even if women wear it voluntarily–indeed, especially if women wear it voluntarily. How else is equality to be achieved?

A few hundred women have been cited for wearing the burqa since the ban went into effect. Almost none of the citations, apparently, have led to incidents like this weekend’s. This weekend’s riots suggest, though, that the burqa ban remains deeply unpopular in some French neighborhoods, and that the controversy is far from over.

Holt et al., “Women, Islam, and Resistance in the Arab World”

This September, Lynne Rienner Publishers will publish Women, Islam, and Resistance in the Arab World by Maria Holt (U. of Westminster) and Haifaa Jawad (U. of Birmingham). The publisher’s description follows.

How are women in the Arab world negotiating the male-dominated character of Islamist movements? Is their participation in the Islamic political project—including violent resistance against foreign invasion and occupation—the result of coercion, or of choice? Questioning assumptions about female powerlessness in Muslim societies, Maria Holt and Haifaa Jawad explore the resistance struggles taking place in Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine, and elsewhere in the Middle East from the perspectives of the women involved.

The authors make extensive use of vivid personal testimonies as they examine the influence of such factors as religion, patriarchy, and traditional practices in determining women’s modes of participation in conflicts. In the process, they add to our knowledge not only of how women are affected by political violence, but also of how their involvement is beginning to change the rules that govern their societies.

Al-Rasheed, “A Most Masculine State”

This month, Cambridge University Press will publish A Most Masculine State: Gender, Politics and Religion in Saudi Arabia by Madawi Al-Rasheed (University of London).  The publisher’s description follows.A Most Masculine

Women in Saudi Arabia are often described as either victims of patriarchal religion and society or successful survivors of discrimination imposed on them by others. Madawi Al-Rasheed’s new book goes beyond these conventional tropes to probe the historical, political, and religious forces that have, across the years, delayed and thwarted their emancipation. The book demonstrates how, under the patronage of the state and its religious nationalism, women have become hostage to contradictory political projects that on the one hand demand female piety, and on the other hand encourage modernity. Drawing on state documents, media sources, and interviews with women from across Saudi society, the book examines the intersection between gender, religion, and politics to explain these contradictions and to show that, despite these restraints, vibrant debates on the question of women are opening up as the struggle for recognition and equality finally gets under way.

Sayeed, “Women and the Transmission of Religious Knowledge in Islam”

SayeedThis April, Cambridge University Press will publish Women and the Transmission of Religious Knowledge in Islam by Asma Sayeed (University of California, Los Angeles). The publisher’s description follows.

Asma Sayeed’s book explores the history of women as religious scholars from the first decades of Islam through the early Ottoman period (seventh to the seventeenth centuries). Focusing on women’s engagement with ḥadīth, this book analyzes dramatic chronological patterns in women’s ḥadīth participation in terms of developments in Muslim social, intellectual, and legal history. Drawing on primary and secondary sources, this work uncovers the historical forces that shaped Muslim women’s public participation in religious learning. In the process, it challenges two opposing views: that Muslim women have been historically marginalized in religious education, and alternately that they have been consistently empowered thanks to early role models such as ‘Ā’isha bint Abī Bakr, the wife of the Prophet Muḥammad. This book is a must-read for those interested in the history of Muslim women as well as in debates about their rights in the modern world. The intersections of this history with topics in Muslim education, the development of Sunnī orthodoxies, Islamic law, and ḥadīth studies make this work an important contribution to Muslim social and intellectual history of the early and classical eras.

Get with the Programme

At question time in the House of Commons today, UK Prime Minister David Cameron spoke about yesterday’s decision by the General Synod of the Church of England to reject women bishops. According to the Guardian,

Cameron said he was “very sad” about the result. “On a personal basis I’m a strong supporter of women bishops. I’m very sad about the way the vote went yesterday …. I think it’s important for the Church of England to be a modern church in touch with society as it is today and this was a key step it needed to take.”

Cameron indicated that the government would respect the Church’s self-governing status — although established by law, the Church legislates for itself through the General Synod — while giving the Church “a sharp prod.” It’s not clear what the prod will be. Some MPs are threatening to end the Church’s representation in the House of Lords; others, to remove the Church’s exemption from anti-discrimination laws. Anyway, Cameron made clear, the Church would somehow have to “get with the programme” and reverse yesterday’s decision.

Please note that the Prime Minister’s objections, and the objections of the other MPs, are entirely political. I don’t mean that as a criticism; it’s simply a fact. In essence, what the Prime Minister is saying is this: The Church’s decision is inconsistent with the deepest values of contemporary English society; therefore, the decision is  illegitimate. Now, no doubt, the Prime Minister thinks it is Continue reading