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Feminism and Islam

Location: MIT

Wednesdays 1:30PM - 4:30PM

February 1, 2017 - May 10, 2017

The fundamental debate about Islam, whether in the academy, the media, or the public sphere, is whether or not Islam is compatible with democracy, civil society, nationalism, secularism and so on. In sharp contrast to this ongoing debate is general consensus 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, we examine how Muslim women give meaning to religiosity and negotiate its various expressions within and across different cultural, national, and political contexts.


Aliyyah I. Abdur-Rahman is Associate Professor of English, African and Afro-American Studies, and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Brandeis University. She is the author of Against the Closet: Black Political Longing and the Erotics of Race (Duke University Press, 2012). Her areas of teaching and research include American and African American literature and culture, critical race theory, gender and sexuality studies, and multiethnic feminisms.


Berna Turam is Associate Professor of Sociology and International Affairs at Northeastern University. She is the author of Between Islam and the State: The Politics of Engagement (Stanford University Press, 2007), and Gaining Freedoms: Claiming Space in Istanbul and Berlin (Stanford University Press, 2015) and the editor of Secular State and Religious Society: Two Forces at Play in Turkey (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012). Her research interests include the interplay between government and the city and ordinary Muslim people, state in particular, and religion and politics in general. Gendering political processes and interactions, she does an intersectional analysis of religion, space and gender.