I just listened to a podcast episode I had missed a year and a half or so ago, from my go-to podcast for discovering the gaps in my knowledge (of which there are so many! sigh) about Ancient Greek, Islamic, Medieval, and Indian philosophy from Peter Adamson’s History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps. As you may remember, I had the privilege of having a conversation with him not that long ago for Ordinary Philosophy’s podcast.
The podcast episode I just listened to that I’m recommending today is called The Stronger Sex: Women Scholars and Islam (#192). In it, ‘Fatema Mernissi and others challenge the long-standing (but not complete) exclusion of women from the intellectual traditions of Islam.’ It was altogether fascinating, and much of what I heard surprised me. It made me very curious to learn more about women in Islamic philosophy.
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Have you heard of Saba Mahmood’s 2005 book “Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject?” (http://press.princeton.edu/titles/9563.html). In it, she argues that feminist scholarship has tended to presuppose a universal desire on the part of women outside the ‘west’ to resist patriarchal power relations as supposed evidence of the necessary connection between self-realization and liberal conceptions of positive agency. She problematizes the apparent dichotomy where discourses and acts of self-determination are seen as necessarily either “enacting or subverting” ethical norms.
The book is a complex and challenging postcolonial analysis of power and scholarly representation about women’s local religious lives outside of the liberal secular ‘west.’ Her ethnographic work with women’s religious education initiatives in Cairo mosques presents a compelling case to think through alternate conceptions of agency in local and religiously-inflected terms that do not reify colonial or Orientalist tropes.
I had not heard of Mahmood’s book, thanks for the share, Tyler, and congratulations on accomplishing so much thus far, and my best to you as you continue on! I’ve been watching your progress on Facebook with so much gladness and admiration
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