A small start

I’ve managed—unexpectedly quickly—to do a reading list that repeats Sara Ahmed’s experiment by not citing any white men. It’s for a single class, so it’s a small start (and an easy win), but still.

Femme Algerienne 1960Later this term I’m doing a session for a master’s-level course entitled Gender, culture, and text, which I agreed to do a while back to get me out of my comfort zone. I could have done something on refugees—that’s what I do research on now—but as I’m the only person in the department with expertise on the Middle East, the course organizers were quite keen to have something on those hot-button topics, women and gender in Islam. This is one subject where the books that come to mind are not by white men, and nor (I discovered) are most of the books next to them on the library shelves. So I came up with a shortish reading list with titles by Leila Ahmed, Fatima Mernissi, Saba Mahmood, Fadwa El Guindi and others, including Katherine Bullock, an Australian-Canadian convert to Islam and proponent of veiling. The only book by a white man I consciously rejected was Douglas Northrop’s Veiled empire: gender and power in Stalinist central Asia, which does actually look really good, but I don’t know enough about central Asia to bring it usefully into the discussion anyway.

One white man does make an appearance, but in the list of primary sources: Marc Garanger, for the ID-card photos of unveiled Algerian women taken when he was an unwilling conscript in the French army in 1960. These are a pretty powerful back atcha to the white male gaze, though not a simple one, so I thought they could stay. But I’m also pointing the students towards Princess Hijab, the duo NiqaBitch, and Aliaa Elmahdy.* I considered using one of Elmahdy’s pictures in this post, but chickened out.

*Princess Hijab, who may have been a man, appears not to be active any more, and if their dormant—but not deleted—Twitter account is any guide NiqaBitch are defunct too. The internet bears their traces, however.

Click image for source

 

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