Intersections and Interventions: Gender and Sexuality in Muslim Societies

Theme for MES4650 Spring 2020

Course Description

In 1989, Catherine MacKinnon wrote, “Male dominance is sexual. Meaning: men in particular, if not men alone, sexualize hierarchy; gender is one. As much a sexual theory of gender as a gendered theory of sex, this is the theory of sexuality that has grown out of consciousness raising in the women's movement.” Around the same period, Judith Butler was critiquing the unintelligibility of the sex/gender distinction and Gayle Rubin’s monumental work “Thinking Sex,” exploring the oppressive dimensions of sexuality, was being republished. Clearly feminist perspectives on gender and sexuality diverge, especially in relation to biology, politics, socialization, idea-construction, and intersectionality. This course investigates contemporary interventions to studying gender and sexuality in history and across Muslim societies, and will survey the particular challenges of studying these issues in different local, transnational and global contexts. This seminar will tackle a set of questions and tentative considerations towards conceptualizing gender and Islam within intersectional frameworks. Chief among our inquiries: according to feminists, in what ways are gender and sexuality constructed, and how are they interlaced with other forms of oppression (racism, sexism, heterosexism, empire, and patriarchalism) and identification (race, class, ethnicity, and citizenship)? Moreover, how can intersectional frameworks conceptualize the activities, life practices, writings, and subjectivities of women who articulate their democratic activities for gender justice - not despite religious affiliation, but rather, because (or partially because) of it? In turn, how can intersectionality be conceptualized in such a way as to address matters of faith and religion without deemphasizing the continuing importance of race? Reading selections from the above authors as well as from Kecia Ali, Sofian Merabet, Kumari Jayawardena, Afsaneh Najmabadi, Patricia Hills Collins, Sheila Jeffreys, and others, we’ll explore writings on sexuality, identifying individual strands and shifting perspectives which have subsequently emerged on the gendering of bodies, spaces, nations, and peoples. Readings include memoirs, editorials, ethnographies, and political treatises, as well as historical scholarship from North Africa, the Gulf, the Levant, and Southeast Asia.


Learning outcomes

  • Introduced to a variety of empirical realities and conditions of primarily women’s lives across contemporary Muslim societies
  • Develop understanding of analytical categories of class, race, gender, and sexualities, and the implications of intersectionality as a methodological approach
  • Develop an interdisciplinary and comparative understanding of gender and sexuality in chiefly the MENA region and by extension the Global South
  • Advance one’s analytical and reading skills when studying diverse sources and discourses
  • Familiarize oneself with major texts and debates circulating in postcolonial, gender, queer and women’s studies
  • Hone reading, writing, and oral communication skills through essay writing and class presentations
Publisert 22. nov. 2019 14:45 - Sist endret 22. nov. 2019 14:45