Seminars featuring Lila Abu-Lughod

Lila Abu-Lughod is widely recognized for her work as a feminist anthropologist, a public intellectual, and an ethnographer of the Middle East.

We are pleased to announce the following events featuring Lila Abu-Lughod, Professor at the Department of Social Anthropology, University of Columbia

The events are free of charge, no registration required.

Do Muslim Women Need Saving?

Tuesday 2 May at 19:00-21:00hrs. Venue: House of Literature. Introduction by Professor Nefissa Naguib, Department of Social Anthropology, Univ of Oslo.

Organizers: Institute for Church, Religion, and Worldview Research (KIFO), Department of Social Anthropology (Univ of Oslo), Centre for Women’s and Gender Research (Univ of Bergen), Faculty of Theology (Univ of Oslo). The event is co-funded by Fritt Ord.

The Value(s) of Ethnography: Revisiting ‘Veiled Sentiments’

Wednesday 3 May at 12:15-14:00hrs. Venue: Auditorium 2, Eilert Sundt building, Campus Blindern. NB! Note the time and place

Organizer: Department of social anthropology, University of Oslo.

Abstract: The Value(s) of Ethnography: revisiting "Veiled Sentiments"

My first ethnography, Veiled Sentiments, opened with an arrival story. It was about what it meant to be accompanied by my Arab father when I was introduced to the Awlad ‘Ali Bedouin community in the Western Desert in Egypt with whom I would spend the next two years, and many periods over the next decade, and who I kept in my heart, mind, and the anthropological work that would consume me for many years thereafter.  The afterword I wrote for the 30th anniversary edition of Veiled Sentiments echoed this story with an opening section I called “Guest and Daughter, Revisited.” In it I told the story of my reactions to the illness and death of my adoptive father in 2009, twenty years after I had first stepped out of that minivan and into the tent where I was surrounded by lively and warm women and girls while my father went off to talk to the men of the family. And eight years after the death of my own father.

I used my reactions to this loss, and the events of my last visit with the Haj before his death—a visit prompted by an uncanny dream I had in New York that jolted me from sleep--to reflect on the meaning for anthropology of ‘ishra—the word they use to talk about living together, which is at the heart of all good fieldwork.  I then explored why I am gripped now by ambivalence about anthropology’s historic commitments to ethnography, and my own.  In this seminar, I  want to talk about the roots of this ambivalence, the ethical qualms about anthropology’s higher purpose in an age of collapsing distances and political danger, and one direction my newfound “ethnographic reserve” (not Audra Simpson’s “ethnographic refusal”) is leading me in my contribution to a collaborative project on religion and the global framing of gender violence.

About Lila Abu-Lughod

My work, strongly ethnographic and mostly based in Egypt, has focused on three broad issues: the relationship between cultural forms and power; the politics of knowledge and representation; and the dynamics of gender and the question of women’s rights in the Middle East .

My first book, Veiled Sentiments, was about the politics of sentiment and cultural expression in a Bedouin community in Egypt that made an argument about the complexity of culture. My second book, Writing Women’s Worlds, framed as a feminist ethnography, used individual stories to make a larger argument about “writing against culture” (writing against typifications of social structure and cultural form by attending to internal argument, individual lives, and complex social dynamics) as a means of intervening in vexed discourses about a maligned region as well as challenging transnational feminist representations of women in Arab societies. My third ethnography, Dramas of NationhoodThe Politics of Television in Egypt, a contribution to the anthropology of nations and to media ethnography, explored the tensions between the social inequalities that bedevil nations and the cultural forms that aspire to address them. In a number of edited books, as well as my teaching, I have pursued these themes further to examine questions of gender and modernity in postcolonial theory, of anthropology and global media, and of violence national/cultural memory.

Currently, as part of an effort to use anthropology to contribute to larger political debates, I am focusing on critiques of the universalist claims of liberalism and on the ethical and political dilemmas entailed in the international circulation of discourses of human rights in general, and Muslim women’s rights in particular.

Seminar contact: Keir James Cecil Martin

Published Feb. 2, 2017 9:55 PM - Last modified Aug. 28, 2017 2:06 PM