Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, Women's, Gender, and Sexuality, California State University / Long Beach

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2006
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Women's Studies, University of California / Los Angeles
Recreating Communities of the Faithful?: Negotiating Gender, Religion and Feminism in Egypt and Malaysia

Gender reform in Islam remains highly contested in the globalization process. While Muslim women are increasingly vocal in these contestations, the impact of their active struggles to reclaim religious discourses, spaces and self-identification is still under-studied. My comparative project investigates how Muslim women intellectual-activists in two NGOs, Women and Memory Forum in Egypt and Sisters in Islam in Malaysia employ "indigenous mediation" strategy to challenge conventional religious discourses in order to advocate for gender reform in Islam. Members of these two NGOs reread Islamic cultural history and Islamic sources (e.g. Qur'an) from a woman-centered perspective to construct alternative understandings of religion. At this juncture in history, there is a crucial need for a comparative analysis of the diverse manifestations of Islam in local contexts to de-essentialize discourses of gender in Islam. To understand women's agency, resistance, and gender power relations, I explore three interrelated questions: How are women transforming Islamic discourses of gender locally and transnationally through their engagement with religion? How is women's relationship to self, community, and the state reconfigured when religion is politicized? Can indigenous mediation provide a viable transformative space for feminist struggles to re-imagine the Muslim community? Using a combination of participant-observation, interviews, focus groups and archival research, my project investigates the intricate ways postcolonial states have compelled women to seek creative and contradictory strategies to structure their struggles. My research will further our understanding of gender politics and religious activism both within and between Muslim communities, which is increasingly important given the contemporary resurgence of religion as a political and cultural motivation, and will contribute to literatures on gender and religion, postcolonial and social movement theory.