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SIEF2011 10th Congress: Lisbon, Portugal.
17-21 April 2011

(P123)

Religion, tribe and gender: resilience of anthropological paradigms in Islamic places

Location Block 1, Piso 1, Room 76
Date and Start Time 18 Apr, 2011 at 11:30

Convenor

Francisco Freire (CRIA / NOVA FCSH) email
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Short Abstract

If recent anthropology has assumed a very critical questioning of past methodological approaches, it is also true that some paradigms are resilient to a definitive rule out. We will try to connect new conceptual approaches with the resistance of some elements of anthropological tradition in Islamic contexts.

Long Abstract

If recent research in anthropology has assumed a harshly critical (post-modernist and post-colonial) questioning of past methodological approaches and analytic areas of specialization, it is also true that 'old' anthropological paradigms remain, in many cases, resilient to a definitive rule out. In this panel we will try to discuss the importance and validity of new conceptual approaches, connecting them with the evident resistance of some 'classical' elements of anthropological tradition in Islamic contexts (gender, Islam and tribe). Contributions are expected to explore and debate the permanence of some anthropological paradigms in contemporary Muslim societies, rather than to provide reviews of saturated critiques. Different ethnographic contexts will be presented, validating this discussion over a wide spectrum of Islamic anthropological locations.

Discussant: Abdel Wedoud Ould Cheikh (Université Paul Verlaine/Metz)

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Competitive sharing of the women's section during Friday Prayers at the Kocatepe Mosque, Ankara

Author: Figen Uzar Özdemir (Middle East Technical University Ankara)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper is an account of a field study which was based on a two-month long participant observation in Friday Prayers at the Kocatepe Mosque in Ankara. It aims to analyze how religious space, the women's section of the mosque, is competitively shared between men and women during Friday Prayers.

Long Abstract

This paper is the result of a two month ethnographic field study (April/June 2009), observing Friday Prayers in Ankara's largest mosque, the Kocatepe Mosque. This study aims to analyze how religious space, the women's section of the mosque, is competitively shared between men and women during Friday Prayers.

Despite all the disputes and theological constraints on women's participation in Friday congregational prayers, pious women in Ankara attend the Friday Prayers in the mosque. Women's reclaiming of their right to attend the congregational prayer on Fridays at the mosque is not welcome by male attendants. While men show their disapproval and anger towards women's participation aloud, women, with a silent objection, walk to the second floor of the mosque, and do pray with the congregation. Although the two upper floors of the mosque are allocated to women, during Friday Prayers men occupy a large part of it, and women are squeezed into a small section.

More than a female resistance for ritual rights, this particular fact underlines women's claims for using public space and visibility within the boundaries of gender segregation in Islam and in the society.

Socio-ethnographic un-defining the "fallen" woman: Kaduna State's harmony model for Northern Nigeria and its post-religious challenge

Author: Thierry Limpens (Ghent University)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper un-defines the "fallen" woman the way she is stigmatized in Northern Nigeria, particularly since the implementation of the Islamic Penal Code in 1999/2000 with its oppressing ethnic ways of life in the region showing traditions of female polygamy which find today more secret ways.

Long Abstract

The paper looks at the politico-legal and feminist questions which follow out that the life of a single woman is in danger under the Islamic Penal Code when she goes into consensual love relations. The latter are rooted in Northern Nigeria socio-ethnic conditions, which are now challenged by the new penal law. Death sentence for 'zina' (illicit sex) has ceased to be implemented since 1999/2000, but the ethnic divide in Northern Nigeria on the interpretation of Islam and the Hausa-Fulani cultural and political 'ruling' over the region makes the atmosphere remain tense.

The study aims at contributing to a follow up of field work which is found in anthropologic literature describing non-Western conceptions of 'marriage' in a Muslim society in which women show to be well placed to come up for their freedom. Here, something delicate is brought forward, as the traditions of women having multiple relationships with men have shifted towards monogamy under the religious upraise that resulted in the implementation of the Islamic Penal Code. Meanwhile, in-depth observations show that practices of female polygamy have found more secret expressions today.

The results of the paper are based on ongoing field research since 2005 in Kaduna, which is one of the Shari`a states in Northern Nigeria.

One conversion and two re-conversions: sectarian violence, colonialism and anthropology

Author: Susanne Dahlgren (Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper explores the notions of religion, ethnic community and gender, through the case study of a Jewish woman's conversion to Islam and subsequent re-conversions, in 1950s Aden (Yemen). I ask, how much does colonial legacy affect the way i.e. sectarian divides are understood in anthropology?

Long Abstract

My paper takes up the case of a young Jewish woman in 1950s colonial Aden whose conversion to Islam and subsequent re-conversions caused a communal mayhem and set the British armed forces into alarm. While the British feared the situation would escalate into communal riots, heads of concerned community organisations engaged into a peaceful consultation process that eventually exposed quite spectacular features. The barely adult woman from a minority community was allowed room to make up her mind in each turn of the events; it was left to her to decide whether to remain with her family and community as a Jewish girl or to accept a Muslim marriage and become a member of a South Asian Muslim community. The anti-Jewish riots and rising independence struggle against the British form the political background to the events. Against all odds, the way gender, ethnicity and religion were negotiated in the process tells something different from how within anthropology, a Middle Eastern patriarchal society is understood to operate. Material for this paper was collected in the British India Office records in London and through ethnographic fieldwork in Aden (Yemen) during some three years.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.