- Duke–UNC–JMEWS Conference: Marketing Muslim Women
National and international scholars, activists, and interested members of the public convened at Duke University for an international conference on Marketing Muslim Women, April 10–12, 2008. The conference aimed to provide a forum to explore how gender is constructed and contested in Islamic tradition and how certain images circulate both within and beyond Muslim cultures; to bring Islamic studies scholars into conversation with those in other fields whose work may not focus on Islam or the Muslim world but who share research interests in gender, culture, and power; and to appeal to faculty, students, and community members and offer them opportunities for different levels and styles of engagement with these issues. According to conference coordinator miriam cooke, the three-day gathering brought together “participants from the U.S., Canada, Kuwait, Jordan, Japan, and England [to] examine the cultural, political, and economic forces that manufacture Muslim women’s images for consumption and how women both produce and consume these images.” Organized by cooke and Ellen McLarney at Duke, Banu Gökarıksel at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, and the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies, the conference was cosponsored by multiple organizations at Duke and UNC–CH.
The broad scope of the event was shaped by four keynote speakers: publisher Tayyibah Taylor spoke on “ Azizah : Media from the Muslimah Perspective,” author Nawal El Saadawi on “Muslim Women in the Market,” [End Page 119] human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi on “Defending Human Rights in Iran,” and sociologist Minoo Moallem on “Scopic Economy and the Politics of Mediation.” Panels and workshops focused on Fashion, Representations, Commodities, Literature, Historical Perspectives, Women’s Studies, Media, and Knowledge Production. The workshops gave participants the opportunity to meet twice in discussion groups to discuss the various keynote speeches, panel presentations, and the conference overall.
Marketing Muslim Women provided an intellectual space for activists, scholars, and others interested in the multidimensional lives of Muslim women, a space from which to engage in the current debates on women in/and Islam. The international component of the conference contributed to diversifying the multi-valanced (re)presentations, identifications, and understandings of Muslim women. Defying any monolithic interpretation of “the Muslim woman,” the conference articulated new directions within this expanding field, where feminist engagements in Islamic studies have paved the way for critical knowledge production vis-à-vis religion and religiosity. The conversations that took place between and among conference participants brought out the complexity of the regions, cultures, and societies from which a multiplicity of perspectives engage and disengage with Muslim women. Such dynamics point to a nascent transnational field of Islamic women’s studies.
This thoughtfully conceived conference produced timely assessments and reassessments of scholarship of and about Muslim women. It also created an intellectual space for scholars, activists, and knowledge-seekers to come together and participate in the processes of critical scholarship. [End Page 120]