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  • Tracing Our Research Trajectories: The Study of Gender in Muslim Societies
  • Azza Basarudin

A Research Roundtable of Southern California Scholars held at the University of California, Los Angeles, on February 13, 2008, brought together sixteen faculty and graduate students to share their own current research and assess the direction of research on women and gender in the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) and Muslim societies internationally. Organized by the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies and cosponsored by the UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies, Center for the Study of Women, Women’s Studies Department, and Center for Southeast Asian Studies, and the UC Santa Barbara Women’s Studies Program and Center for Middle East Studies, the event was designed to stimulate research on MENA and Arab and Muslim communities, and to build an extensive and inclusive academic research community. An audience of approximately 50 listened to the discussion and attended the reception that followed.

Conference participants represented various disciplines including Anthropology, Communications Studies, Comparative Literature, History, Islamic Studies, and Women’s Studies. They were encouraged to discuss their research in relation to a number of questions posed by the organizers, JMEWS co-editors Nancy Gallagher and Sondra Hale:

  • • From what sources have our ideas flowed in the first part of the twenty-first century, e.g., from the Global North or the Global South or a combination thereof?

  • • What is the status of feminisms as we travel the globe?

  • • How has globalization shaped our fields? [End Page 81]

  • • Which fields are most influential in contemporary international MENA/Muslim studies of gender, e.g. social sciences, humanities, comparative literature, modernist studies, postcolonial studies, development studies, transnational studies, etc.?

  • • How have various “perpetual conflicts” had an impact on our scholarship, including U.S. occupations, the “war on terrorism,” the situation in Palestine, and crises in Muslim areas such as Darfur?

  • • How would you characterize the epistemological journeys and research trajectories of MENA/Muslim communities gender studies in the twenty-first century?

  • • Is the gender concept viable in the Age of Empire?

  • • With reference to gender, race, class, and sexuality, is intersectionality an important conceptual and methodological approach for the study of MENA in the Age of Empire?

  • • What are the most viable and relevant theories, pedagogies, and epistemologies in contemporary MENA/Muslim communities gender studies?

  • • Are studies and programming around such topics as human rights, academic freedom, and MENA/Muslim women in a healthy state in the U.S. academy?

  • • Have Marxism, political economy, and research on class lost ground in our field?

  • • Does religious studies (namely the study of Islam) still dominate the field? What are the ways that religion has been taken up outside of religious studies? Put another way, how has religion or religious studies been reconfigured and what does this mean for our scholarship?

  • • What is the health of women’s studies within sexuality studies? Are women being excluded from sexuality studies?

Ece Algan (California State University, San Bernardino) described her research focus on the interactive impacts of globalization and local media on the construction of contemporary communications technologies, and their influence on women’s negotiating strategies and the reassessment of patriarchy and gender identities in rural Turkey. Fiazuddin Shuayb (UCLA) outlined his research in Muslim feminist hermeneutics [End Page 82] as they reflect anti-patriarchal readings, allowing for concepts of gender equity, and as they speak to traditional exegesis of Islamic sacred texts on gender as a whole. Gil Hochberg (UCLA) invoked the pervasive metaphors of walls and borders as promising tools for the analysis of gender, identity, gay/sexuality, and queer activism in the context of national and ethnic partition in Israel/Palestine, and emphasized the need to redefine key terms (e.g., in this case, “queer”) at the outset of any new research project. Amy Malek (UCLA) described her preparatory study of cultural productions of Iranian diasporic communities in New York City, focusing on representations of sexuality and identity.

Janell Rothenberg (UCLA) described the field of her research as the interplay of tourism and migration and of gender and sexuality in urban Morocco and in North Africa more broadly, inspired in part by the phenomenon of street harassment in Tangiers. Sherna Berger Gluck...


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