Feminism and Islam

SPRING: Thursdays, 2:30 – 5:30 PM
February 2, 2012 – May 10, 2012
Building 1 Room 132

Scholars of Islam continue disagreeing on many issues such as whether or not Islam is compatible with democracy, civil society, nationalism, secularism and so on. In sharp contrast to these ongoing disagreements, there seems to be an overarching agreement about the “gender problem” in Islam. This predominant view casting Islam as an “excessively patriarchal religion” not only essentializes Muslim women as victims and Muslim men as oppressors but also reduces the so-called “Muslim world” to an inherently static condition of patriarchy. Within feminist theory, religion is a highly debated issue with regard to women’s empowerment and emancipation. But Islam is specifically singled out among other monotheistic religions with regard to its presumably inherent qualities that undermine women’s equality, freedom and power. The main goal of this course is to explore the ways in which Islam as a religion, ways of life and politics may (dis)advantage Muslim women, their lives and gender dynamics. And, concomitantly, how Muslim women give meaning to religiosity and negotiate its various expressions.


Elora Chowdhury, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Women's Studies at UMass Boston. Her teaching and research interests include transnational feminisms, critical development studies, and human rights advocacy. She is the author of Transnationalism Reversed: Women Organizing Against Gendered Violence in Bangladesh (SUNY Press, 2011).

Berna Turam is an Associate Professor in Sociology and International Affairs at Northeastern University. She is political sociologist who uses ethnographic and feminist methods to study politics of religion and gender. She is the author of Between Islam and the State: The Politics of Engagement (Stanford University Press, 2007), and a forthcoming book entitled, Affinities between Secular State and Pious Society. Her current book project explores the ways in which urban space and political processes are mapped onto each other in fueling and diluting political conflict.

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Consortium for Graduate Studies in Gender, Culture, Women, and Sexuality
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 14N-211
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
Phone: 617-324-2085