Women's Empowerment and Leadership Development for Democratisation

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Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving? Anthropological Reflections on Cultural Relativism and Its Others

 

 

This article explores the ethics of the current "War on Terrorism, asking whether anthropology, the discipline devoted to understanding and dealing with cultural difference, can provide us with critical purchase on the justifications made for American intervention in Afghanistan in terms of liberating, or saving, Afghan women. I look first at the dangers of reifying culture, apparent in the tendencies to plaster neat cultural icons like the Muslim woman over messy historical and political dynamics. Then, calling attention to the resonances of contemporary discourses on equality, freedom, and rights with earlier colonial and missionary rhetoric on Muslim women, I argue that we need to develop, instead, a serious appreciation of differences among women in the world—as products of different histories, expressions of different circumstances, and manifestations of differently structured desires.

Author: 
Lila Abu-Lughod
Published Date: 
25/06/2014
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