Who's Afraid of Shari'a?: Workshop on "Gender, Rights, and the Practices of Law" (by invitation only)

Friday, October 9, 2009 - 9:30am to 3:00pm

"Gender, Rights, and the Practices of Law," Friday, October 3rd, 9:30am-3pm.  Workshop (by invitation only) organized by Lila Abu-Lughod and co-sponsored by IRCPL (Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life) and CSSD (Center for the Study of Social Difference) to launch the CSSD working group on "Liberalism's Others." 

"Gender, Rights, and the Practices of Law" brings together theorists and practitioners of human rights law and women's advocacy in the Muslim world with historians and anthropologists exploring Islamic law in practice to consider what it might mean to talk about Sharia, human rights law, and women's rights while "taking a break from anti-colonialism."  How do the debates over Sharia and human rights law and norms, especially as extended to issues of women and sexuality, overlap with, play against, or work within postcolonial discourse and contemporary critiques of western liberalism and its reform projects in the Muslim world?  How should we look at both sorts of law and their relations?  What happens if we look at law not only in terms of norms in texts, but also as applied -- not in courts, as it rarely is, but rather through advocacy work, reports of major human rights organizations, lobbying efforts at major international events? What happens if we focus, in the case of Islamic law, on Sharia as articulated by states that claim to apply it as interpreted by and applied to real people in particular places through courts and fatwas, past and present?  The debate here would be over a) whether we ought to look at law and its application as a particularly important site of what is wrong with current human rights approaches to "Islamic" human rights and women's rights problems (as they are commonly thought of), and b) how we ought to define and understand the law that we look at so that, for example, we direct our attention to the contemporary application of Islamic law, as opposed to the writings of liberal Islamic reformers popular in the West, and we consider whether Sharia can be said to exist anymore.  Workshop participants include: Khaled Fahmy, Brinkley Messick, Naz Modirzadeh, Arzoo Osanloo and Dina M. Siddiqi.

A few spaces are available for interested scholars.  Please contact Neha Nimmagudda (nsn2105@columbia.edu) to indicate your interest.  If there is room, you will be given access to workshop papers to read in advance.