Monday, February 14, 2011
Saturday, February 12, 2011
The Fresh Language Scene Attending the Current Arab Revolts
The ongoing popular revolts in the Arab World have not only disrupted and upturned the long-stagnant political scene in the region, but have of a sudden disrupted and energized the lethargic linguistic scene as well. The revolts in Tunisia and Egypt, and the popular bestirrings in other Arab countries, have exposed the hollowness of defunct official discourses (of regimes and their symbiotic traditional oppositions alike) contrasting them with new young and lively discourses arising in the street. Examples of this could be seen in the use of new catchy slogans in both Arabic Standard and Colloquials (e.g.إذا الشعب يوما أراد الحياة , تونس حرّة حرّة بن علي برّه برّه , الشعب يريد إسقاط النظام , مش عايزينك etc. ), the formulaic Arabic used by the presidents and their old guard, the use of “Facebook” Arabic, the effective marrying of Standard to regional colloquials on Satellite TV stations, the confused prevaricating English of the White House, the variety of rhetorics adopted by regional and international media (unequivocally pro-street on Aljazeera, regimes-friendly on Al-Arabia, editorial enthusiasm on Al-Hurra that often conflicts with official US positions, angry tones of CNN crews beaten by pro-regime thugs, Israeli newsmen torn between enthusiasm and trepidation, etc.).
This panel seeks to explore and understand the various manifestations of this new linguistic scene forming around the popular Arab revolts and the various discourses and language phenomena at work in it. If you are interested in presenting a paper in this panel, please email an abstract of about 300-400 words to Dr. Muhamed Al Khalil (email@example.com) by February 14 . You can also email me to discuss your thoughts before you submit your abstract. I myself plan to present a paper on the reinvigorated use of Arabic poetry in the revolts and the implications for the art and its future.
For more information contact,
Muhamed Osman Al Khalil, Ph.D.
Director of Arabic Studies
New York University Abu Dhabi
Language, Literacy, and The Social Construction of Authority in Islamic Societies
March 3-4, 2011, 10:00 am - 6:30 pm
Landau Economics Building, Lucas Conference Room
(579 Serra Mall, Stanford, CA 94305)
FREE AND OPEN TO PUBLIC
Registration required: http://www.stanford.edu/dept/islamic_studies/register.fb
For more information: http://ica.stanford.edu/node/2753
THURSDAY, MARCH 3, 2011
10:00 am - 12:40 pm - CONTEMPORARY STRUGGLES FOR AUTHORITY
Ebru Erdem-Akçay, University of California, Riverside, “Religiosity, Language Use and Political Expression: A Study on two Turkish Online Communities”
Peter McMurray, Harvard University, “Listening to the Poetics and Politics of Contemporary Balkan Sufism"
Stéphane Lacroix, Sciences Po, “Ulama, Intellectuals and the Struggle for Authority within Islamist Movements”
Bernard Rougier, Collège de France/Sciences Po, “A Micro-sociological Look at the Struggle for Religious Authority in Tripoli, Lebanon”
2:00 pm - 4:00 pm - LANGUAGE, LITERACY AND THE NATION
Parna Sengupta, Stanford University, “Schooling Faith: Religious Pluralism in Twentieth Century Bengal”
Nabil Mouline, Sciences Po/Princeton University, “The Sultan is the Caliph in His Territories: The Construction of Political Authority in lat 16th - early 17th century Morocco”
Alexander Knysh, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, “Arabic as the Language of Resistance: The Caucasus Emirate”
4:30 pm - 6:30 pm - LITERATURE AND PERFORMANCE
Prashant Keshavmurthy, McGill University, “Sirajuddin Ali Khan Arzu and the Emergence of the Universal Human Subject in early Modern Persian Literary Theory”
Melis Sülos, CUNY, “The Rise and the Politicization of the Popular Theatre in the Late Ottoman World”
Yaseen Noorani, University of Arizona, “Literary Aestheticism and the Formation of the Notion of Islamic Civilization”
FRIDAY, MARCH 4, 2011
10:00 am - 12:40 pm - THE ULEMA IN MODERN TIMES
Mara Leichtman, Michigan State University, “Arabic Literacy, Conversion to Shi'i Islam, and the Transformation of Religious Authority in Senegal”
Zekeria Ahmed Salem, University of Florida, “From Slaves to Imams? Knowledge, Islamic Authority, and Social Change in Mauritania”
Thomas Pierret, Princeton University, “Tradition as an Asset: Informal Religious Teaching and the Cooptation of the 'New Literate Elites' by the Ulema in 20th Century Syria”
Laurence Louër, CERI/Sciences Po/CNRS, “Mohammed al-Shirazi and the Construction of Religious Authority”
2:00 PM - 4:00 PM - MODERN TRANSFORMATIONS OF AUTHORITY
Kristen Brustad, University of Texas, Austin, “Standard Language Ideology and the Construction of Modern Standard Arabic”
David Lelyveld, William Paterson University, “Sir Syed's Printing Press: Print, Literacy and Islam in Early Nineteenth Century India”
Brett Wilson, Macalester College, “Qur'an Translation in the Age of Nationalism”
4:30 PM - 6:30 PM – VISUALITY
Chanchal Dadlani, Columbia University, “The Visual, the Textual, and the Construction of Cultural Authority in the Late Mughal Empire” (abstract) (paper)
Hamza Zeghlache, University of Setif, “Text, Space and Images: Written Representation of Islamic Architecture in Arabic Manuscript”
Elham Etemadi, University of Leuven, “The Verbal Conditionality of Visual Literacy: Early Modern Persian Paintings"
Contact: Dr. Burcak Keskin-Kozat, Associate Director
The Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies
Division of International, Comparative and Area Studies
Source: AWID, 11/02/2011 2:17 am
FRIDAY FILE: At first glance, female genital mutilation and genital surgery carried out for cosmetic purposes might seem intrinsically different. On closer examination, however, they may be more similar than they initially appear.
By Kathambi Kinoti
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is the centuries-old practice of removing part or all of the external genitalia of women. It is predominantly carried out in parts of Africa and the Middle East as a tool to control women’s sexuality. Genital cosmetic surgery is a modern practice that is undertaken, mainly by women, in order to improve the appearance of their genitalia. Although they are practices that have developed from very different premises, they share some commonalities.
Female Genital Mutilation
The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies the different forms of FGM as follows:
- “Clitoridectomy: partial or total removal of the clitoris (a small, sensitive and erectile part of the female genitals) and, in very rare cases, only the prepuce (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoris).
- Excision: partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora (the labia are "the lips" that surround the vagina).
- Infibulation: narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the inner, or outer, labia, with or without removal of the clitoris.
- Other: all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, e.g. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the genital area. “
The harmful effects of FGM are numerous: shock, haemorrhage and sepsis are some of the immediate effects. Some girls and women bleed to death after undergoing the practices. In the long term, women can face infertility, obstructed labour during childbirth, obstetric fistula and other conditions.
FGM is recognized in international law as well as in the laws of several countries as a human rights violation, but it remains deeply entrenched in the cultures in which it is practised.
Labioplasty and other modern cosmetic procedures
In recent years there has been a dramatic increase in the number of women electing to undergo cosmetic surgery on their genitals in order to appear younger or more beautiful in modern youth- and beauty-obsessed cultures. Between 2004 and 2007 the number of labiaplasties in private hospitals the United Kingdom tripled, while there was an increase of almost 70 percent in public hospitals in the country between 2006 and 2008.[i]
Procedures include “reduction of the inner labia (labia minora), vaginal tightening, hymen ‘reconstruction,’ clitoral ‘lifts’ and liposuction of the mons veneris (fatty tissue over the pubic bone, these are performed in order to create a sense of proportion when the inner labia have been shortened) clitoral hood reductions and clitoral repositioning.” [ii]
Viv Groskop [iii] wrote of the rise in the numbers of women seeking cosmetic genital surgery: “In the vast majority of cases, labiaplasty is simply a response to the physical appearance of the labia, a desire for more ‘attractive’ genitalia.” Tracey Plowman, a social psychologist who reviewed the ‘The Perfect Vagina,’ a documentary filmed in the United Kingdom, says: “It is common for youth and beauty to be conflated in the world of cosmetic surgery… [and] female genital cosmetic surgery is no different.][iv]
Different but some commonalities
At a basic level, FGM and cosmetic female genital surgery are similar because they both involve modification to female genitalia and neither of them are performed for medically justifiable reasons (although in rare cases there are medical reasons for genital modification such as when girls are born with labia that have not developed properly). Both are performed based on cultural norms and expectations.
Any surgery or excision to the body comes with risks. These risks are on the whole much higher with FGM, since girls or women undergoing cosmetic genital surgery generally have access to top-notch medical facilities. In some contexts, FGM is now carried out by qualified medical doctors in hospitals, but the ‘medicalisation[v]’ of FGM has been strongly advocated against by international entities such as the World Health Organization and United Nations.
The primary difference between the procedures is consent. While cosmetic genital surgery is carried out on women who agree to the procedure, FGM is largely carried out on young girls who do not have the capacity to consent. There are, however, some women who elect to undergo FGM. But for women who consent to either procedure, their decision may not always be from a position of knowledge or power. What constitutes informed consent? Questions about how the practice of cosmetic surgery is regulated have been raised. Are the risks and possible complications of the surgery explained? Is it the knowledge that the procedure is unnecessary, or that they risk losing their lives from excessive bleeding? Or is it about understanding that human vulvas come in a variety of forms, and there is not an “ideal-looking” form?
The power of social pressure
FGM is a measure to curb women’s sexual desire, even though it is acknowledged that it does not always eliminate this desire. FGM is also a community affair. In many cultures there is a regular circumcision season during which girls who have attained a certain age collectively undergo rituals that “transform them into women.” These rituals involve the physical removal of parts of the genitalia, as well as the impartation of social and cultural mores that prepare them for womanhood in that community. Some societies that practice FGM do not require girls and women to undergo any particular ritual, but their state of being circumcised or uncircumcised is still considered the business of their communities. Not having undergone the cut isolates them and precludes them from marriage. FGM confers social status on many parties: parents, extended families, husbands, circumcisers and of course, women and girls themselves.
On the other hand cosmetic genital surgery is a measure that is regarded as improving women’s desirability. Although the choice to undergo the surgery may be an individual one, the suggestion that it is necessary originates in evolving societal values that define what desirable genitalia look like. The beauty industry, mainstream media and profit-making health care sector all collaborate to exert immense pressure on women to be youthful and beautiful according to rigid standards. Groskop quotes a gynaecologist, Dr Sarah Creighton who says that “women are aiming for a certain genital appearance that used to be an obligation only for some glamour models.” While it can be argued that women have the right to make decisions about their own bodies, the combination of actors influencing any woman’s decision to undergo this surgery makes it difficult to ascertain to what extent her choice is completely informed.
Sara Johnsdotter and Brigitta Essén [vi] argue that “procedures involving genital modifications are intertwined with political considerations; they are never purely about anatomy and physiology but are intrinsically entangled with cultural norms and ideology.” In the context of women’s bodies, these cultural norms and ideology give rise to notions about how women are expected to look. So a woman who elects to undergo cosmetic genital surgery may be unduly influenced to think that she needs to modify her body. In the case of FGM these cultural norms and ideology restrict women’s sexuality.
The harmfulness and pervasiveness of FGM should never be downplayed. Indeed, there is extensive work being done to eliminate FGM, and there has been some success even though the practice persists. It is also important to challenge modern ideologies that influence women to seek to modify their genitalia. Although the two practices may stem from different beliefs and have different effects, they both have roots in societal impositions on women’s bodies.
[i] “A cut too far: the rise in cosmetic surgery on female genitalia.” The Guardian, November 20, 2009. http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/nov/20/cosmetic-vulva-surgery. Site accessed on February 7, 2011.
[ii] Johnsdotter, S and Essén, B. 2010: “Genitals and ethnicity: the politics of genital modifications.”Reproductive Health Matters 2010; 18 (35) 29-37.
[iii] See note ii.
[iv] Plowman, T. “The Perfect Vagina.”Reproductive Health Matters 2010; 18(35) 111-114.
[v] FGM provided by medical practitioners in order to make it safe – advocates cite the performance of this needless procedure on children as a violation of medical ethics. (Broken bodies broken dreams, 2005:52)
[vi] See note ii
After I get a respectable amount of research done today for my dissertation, I will come back, translate this magazine review of Bouhani's book in the Moroccan women's magazine Citadine, and destroy it with gusto. To be continued...
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
This is the story of how my dissertation was born. During my 2nd year (fall 2007) of PhD coursework in the Graduate Program in International Studies at ODU, in Dr. Kurt Taylor-Gaubatz' course on democracy in the international system, a great friend and fellow PhD student Kim passed along a fantastic article from Foreign Affairs. Firstly, Kurt is amazing, and definitely one of the best things about GPIS. Secondly, Kim changed my life with that suggestion. The article led to my paper topic for the course on whether electoral quotas for women enhance democracy.
The research for that paper led me to the amazing organization, IDEA, where I hope to work someday (I finally have a concrete, true, and reasonable answer to inquiries about where I hope to end up!). IDEA's work on parliamentary quotas for women is superlative, and their publications drew my attention to the participation of illiterate women in local councils in Pakistan. That tidbit was the next step in the life change that Kim's suggestion sparked.
That spring (2008) Dr. Jennifer Fish taught Gender and Globalization. Jennifer, like Kurt, is one of the gems of ODU--a real treasure. She is the one that nurtured the the idea into the topic that it is today. And of course, as a work in progress, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the chair of my dissertation committee, Dr. Francis Adams, and my 3rd committee member, Dr. Fran Hassencahl. Dr. Adams has a gift for massaging 'ideas' (by which I mean scatter diagrams, really) into cogent organization. Dr. Hassencahl provided invaluable support at the WOCMES 2010 conference in Barcelona, and is the first professor to witness me present my fieldwork from Morocco.
As of this moment, I am moving forward, fast as I can, to become Dr. Baines. There is a deadline with the end of the world scheduled for 2012 and all.
Degree Program: Graduate Program in International Studies (PhD)
Research Working Title: Women, Illiteracy and Public Participation: Barriers to Transforming Governance in Arab states?
Illiteracy is a gendered factor across societies at all levels of development and globalization. Literacy is not simply an indicator of class, social status and educational level, but is assumed to serve as a major barrier to large swathes of society—namely women. Women have marginalized voices, both written and spoken, yet are counted in number in terms of their participation in politics at all levels of governance. "Most women fight wars on two fronts, one for whatever the putative topic is and one simply for the right to speak, to have ideas, to be acknowledged to be in possession of facts and truths, to have value, to be a human being." By investigating the ways in which illiteracy affects women’s agency in terms of obtaining, or desiring to obtain positions of influence and decision-making across all levels of governance, this paper analyzes the capacity of literacy to empower and exclude women from public participation.
The role of illiterates in society is complex and largely defined by agents other than the literates themselves. My dissertation focuses in part on the (non)existence of illiterate women in the literature that considers women’s political capacity. Historically where developing states achieved extensive advances in literacy, an increase in political participation also occurred. In Morocco there is expansion of participation without advances in literacy. If literacy is not necessary to empower women as assumed, how does the traditional focus of foreign aid and development regimes on literacy programs miss the mark in terms of the role that illiterate women play in political transition?