Representations of Muslim Women in the Western Imaginary Open Access

Grbic, Lamija (2017)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/hd76s0898?locale=en
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Abstract

I draw upon examples of political discourse in the United States and France in order to investigate how Muslim women are being portrayed and what kinds of stories are being told about them. While employed in differing ways, representations of Muslim women in western political discourse reply upon a presumption of gender oppression tied closely to the hijab and other forms of body coverings. I argue that such a presumption stems from a narrow iteration of feminist thought that ultimately conceals a neocolonial project of enforcing western meanings and values upon cultural "others." An important component of this process is the discursive act of "pointing toward" Muslim women as women who have internalized their own "oppression" and therefore failed to live up to feminist standards. I draw upon several philosophical lenses--phenomenology, post-colonial studies, Islamic feminisms and psychoanalysis--to deconstruct the discursive mechanisms which render such representations intelligible and moving to a western audience. I also attempt to uncover the ways in which our very conception of feminism is structured by our cultural, historical and social positionalities in the West. Rather than ascribing meanings to the experiences of other women, I propose an alternative model of feminist solidarity that relies upon mutual embeddedness, self-critique and a form of letting go of our stakes in the epistemological, cultural and bodily configurations of different groups of women.

Table of Contents

Introduction........................................................................1

Chapter 1: Secularism and Liberalism in France and the U.S......6

Chapter 2: Deconstructing Hegemonic Representations............29

Chapter 3: Toward a Vision of Feminist Solidarity....................63

Conclusion.........................................................................94

Bibliography.......................................................................97

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