Competing Legalities? Violence, Gender, Shari'a, and the State

Tuesday, February 8, 2011 - 4:15pm to 6:00pm

This exploratory workshop, preparatory for an international conference in 2011, will examine the relationship between Islamic law and gender violence in the Muslim world from two perspectives. The first queries the culturalization of gendered violence, asking why certain repertoires of violence -- honor killing, sexual humiliation, stoning -- have come to be associated with community formation, notions of honor, and retributive justice broadly identified as "Islamic." A second set of questions emerges from more local concerns with how judicial lifeworlds --e.g., forms and practices of adjudication, legal knowledge formation -- constitute female subjects through sexual vulnerability. The workshop thus addresses the centrality of women (and of gender violence) to the global dialectic of human rights vs. Islamic law, using case studies drawn from diverse parts of the Muslim world -- Afghanistan, Egypt, India, Nigeria, and Israel/Palestine -- that reflect historically specific, if mutating, relationships between religion, law, and the state.

Some specific concerns of the workshop will be to: 1) Explore the long life of colonial law and constitution of legal categories as they impact gender and sexuality in the postcolony;  2) Examine (and challenge) the binarisms that tend to frame debates about law and culture, human rights and Shari'a; 3) Address emergent discourses around a new category of gender violence, 'honor killings,' and ask how their 'discovery' interpellates women as subjects of various social groups and the state.

Four or five background papers, available on CCASD's password protected site, will form the basis of the discussions in this closed workshop. Work by the following participants should be read in advance: Professor Lila Abu-Lughod (Anthropology, Columbia); Sonia Ahsan (Anthropology, Columbia); Professor Steven Pierce (Anthropology, Manchester); Professor Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian (Law, Hebrew U. and Mada al-Carmel).

This workshop is part of CCASD's "Liberalism and its Others" project. It is organized in connection with the initiative, "Who's Afraid of Shari'a? Religious Law, Secular Reform and Global Debates on Muslim Women's Rights," co-sponsored by Columbia's Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life.

If interested in participating, please contact Murat Guney: mkg2116@columbia.edu