UC Press is spotlighting books that provide context to the struggles and solidarity of women in Afghanistan, the Middle East, and beyond. These books delve into the histories of Muslim feminism past and present as their activism shapes not only the local but also the geopolitical in an uncertain future.
The Pitfalls of Protection
Gender, Violence, and Power in Afghanistan
by Torunn Wimpelmann
At free ebook version of this title is available through Luminos, University of California Press’s open access publishing program. Visit www.luminosoa.org to learn more.
Since the 2001 overthrow of the Taliban government in Afghanistan, violence against women has emerged as the single most important issue for Afghan gender politics. The Pitfalls of Protection, based on research conducted in Afghanistan between 2009 and 2015, locates the struggles over gender violence in local and global power configurations. The author finds that aid flows and geopolitics have served as both opportunities and obstacles to feminist politics in Afghanistan. Showing why Afghan activists often chose to use the leverage of Western powers instead of entering into either protracted negotiations with powerful national actors or broad political mobilization, the book examines both the achievements and the limits of this strategy.
Land of the Unconquerable
The Lives of Contemporary Afghan Women
Edited by Jennifer Heath and Ashraf Zahedi
Reaching beyond sensational headlines, Land of the Unconquerable at last offers a three-dimensional portrait of Afghan women. In a series of wide-ranging, deeply reflective essays, accomplished scholars, humanitarian workers, politicians, and journalists—most with extended experience inside Afghanistan—examine the realities of life for women in both urban and rural settings. They address topics including food security, sex work, health, marriage, education, poetry, politics, prisoners, and community development. Eschewing stereotypes about the burqa, the contributors focus instead on women’s empowerment and agency, and their struggles for peace and justice in the face of a brutal ongoing war. A fuller picture of Afghanistan’s women past and present emerges, leading to social policy suggestions and pragmatic solutions for a peaceful future.
Sisters in the Mirror
A History of Muslim Women and the Global Politics of Feminism
by Elora Shehabuddin
Stretching from the eighteenth-century Enlightenment era to the War on Terror present, Sisters in the Mirror shows how changes in women’s lives and feminist strategies have consistently reflected wider changes in national and global politics and economics. Muslim women, like non-Muslim women in various colonized societies and non-white and poor women in the West, have found themselves having to negotiate their demands for rights within other forms of struggle—for national independence or against occupation, racism, and economic inequality. Through stories of both well-known and relatively unknown figures, Shehabuddin recounts instances of conflict alongside those of empathy, collaboration, and solidarity across this extended period. Sisters in the Mirror is organized around stories of encounters between women and men from South Asia, Britain, and the United States that led them, as if they were looking in a mirror, to pause and reconsider norms in their own society, including cherished ideas about women’s roles and rights. These intertwined stories confirm that nowhere, in either Western or Muslim societies, has material change in girls’ and women’s lives come easily or without protracted struggle.
When women took to the streets during the mass protests of the Arab Spring, the subject of feminism in the Middle East and North Africa returned to the international spotlight. In the subsequent years, countless commentators treated the region’s gender inequality as a consequence of fundamentally cultural or religious problems. In so doing, they overlooked the specifically political nature of these women’s activism. Moving beyond such culturalist accounts, this book turns to the relations of power in regional and international politics to understand women’s struggles for their rights.
Based on over a hundred extensive personal narratives from women of different generations in Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon, Nicola Pratt traces women’s activism from national independence through to the Arab uprisings, arguing that activist women are critical geopolitical actors. Weaving together these personal accounts with the ongoing legacies of colonialism, Embodying Geopolitics demonstrates how the production and regulation of gender is integrally bound up with the exercise and organization of geopolitical power, with consequences for women’s activism and its effects.