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Forging the Ideal Educated Girl

The Production of Desirable Subjects in Muslim South Asia

Shenila Khoja-Moolji (Author)

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In Forging the Ideal Educated Girl, Shenila Khoja-Moolji traces the evolving politics of educational reform and development campaigns in colonial India and Pakistan. She challenges the prevailing common sense associated with calls for women's and girls’ education by arguing that such advocacy is not simply about access to education but, more crucially, is concerned with molding girls into the kinds of subjects needed to advance societal projects such as nation building, modernization, and solidifying religious identity. Such concerns are often driven by material and cultural struggles for power. Thus, discourses around education for girls and women are sites for the construction not only of gender identity but also of class, religion, and the nation.
Shenila Khoja-Moolji is Assistant Professor of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies at Bowdoin College. Her work examines the interplay of gender, race, religion, and power in transnational contexts, particularly in relation to Muslim populations. 
"This ambitious and pathbreaking genealogical study of the circulation and political uses of the dense figure of the educated South Asian Muslim woman/girl is brilliantly executed and utterly timely. Exquisitely attuned to the complexities of South Asia—colonial, postcolonial, and contemporary—Khoja-Moolji has mined the cultural archives of the past and present. With an unerring eye for the significant detail, enviable analytical clarity, and a sustained commitment to offering alternatives, she has written an exemplary book destined to become a classic. It promises to transform our thinking, not just in the scholarly fields of South Asian and Pakistani studies or transnational feminism but in policy and the popular imagination."—Lila Abu-Lughod, Joseph L. Buttenwieser Professor of Social Science, Columbia University
"A brilliant and unprecedented study. Historically grounded and methodologically sophisticated, this book is essential reading for anyone interested in the history of Muslims in South Asia and the gendered complexities of education."—Jamal J. Elias, Walter H. Annenberg Professor in the Humanities, University of Pennsylvania
"This groundbreaking book examines the historical reform debates as well as contemporary transnational development campaigns on Muslim women and girls’ education in colonial and post-colonial South Asia. Through careful sifting of archival material and interview data as well as analysis of important Urdu literary works, it highlights the historically, sociologically, and politically contingent nature of discourses about women/girls education, particularly in Pakistan. Unique for its genealogical approach, the book provides rare insights into the internal debates and polarizations within Muslim communities over issues related to girls’/women education. Spanning the intersection between Islamic, South Asian, and gender studies, the book will appeal to a wide range of audiences."—Ali S. Asani, Professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic Religion and Cultures, Harvard University
"In Forging the Ideal Educated Girl, Shenila Khoja-Moolji assembles an impressive array of archival materials—including nineteenth-century women's writings, post-colonial advertisements, television programs, and focus group conversations—to show how Muslims in South Asia contest both colonial and local forms of oppression. This book will change how you think about Malala Yousafzai, international campaigns for girls' education, and the agenda of international companies in Pakistan. More profoundly, this book investigates Islamic conceptions of education and a good life that elude the categories of neoliberalism and religious fundamentalism. I highly recommend the book to scholars of gender studies, political theory, and South Asian politics."—Nicholas Tampio, Associate Professor of Political Science, Fordham University
"Shenila Khoja-Moolji offers a stunning genealogy of the Pakistani Muslim girl and her connections to educational, social, and national development from the colonial to the neoliberal state. She begins with Malala Yousafzai and the Western-focused storyline of the urgency and revolutionary effects of girls’ education in Muslim communities. This book examines arguments for women’s education in different historical eras, reviews the possibilities and limits of the educated Muslim girl, and illustrates how we might consider girls empowerment through education more critically."—Nancy Lesko, Maxine Greene Professor, Teachers College, Columbia University

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