Saba Mahmood and Anthropological Feminism After Virtue

In the May publication of Theory, Culture and Society   the work of the influential poststructuralist and postcolonial anthropologist  Saba Mahmood (UC Berkeley, USA) is being explored by Sindre Bangstad. Saba Mahmood’s work in anthropology adopts an Asadian and Butlerian approach, particularly in the seminal Politics of Piety.

This article explores the work of the influential poststructuralist and postcolonial anthropologist Saba Mahmood (UC Berkeley, USA). Mahmood’s work in anthropology adopts an Asadian and Butlerian approach, particularly in the seminal Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject. In this work, Mahmood critically interpellates the categories of ‘Western’ secular feminism through an exploration of the lives of pious Muslim women of Salafi orientations in Cairo in Egypt. Mahmood’s work constitutes an important intervention at a point in time when secular feminist discourses are increasingly instrumentalized across the political spectrum in anti-Muslim discourses in the ‘Western’ world and in Europe. I argue, however, that in wanting to use the understandings and practices of pious Muslim women in Egypt in order to critique Western secular feminism, Mahmood fails to pose critical questions about the historicity of these practices and understandings, and lends her analysis to a form of cultural relativism which offers few prospects for a way forward for feminism.

 

 

Tags: Feminism, Critical Theory, Feminist Theory, Islam, Muslims
Published Aug. 4, 2011 1:08 PM - Last modified Mar. 24, 2015 9:19 AM