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Salaams dear MMW readers,
We’ve missed you! After taking a couple months off, the MMW team is excited to be back in action, ready to share more of our analysis of Muslim women and media that you have come to know and love.
I also wanted to share some good news – in fact, some personal updates that are largely responsible for the recent pause in MMW posting. Over this time that we took a break, both MMW’s Associate Editor (Tasnim) and Editor-in-Chief (me) defended our PhD dissertations. We’re happy to have this chapter (well, several chapters, to be precise) behind us, and excited to return to MMW, so please stay tuned for more new blog posts this week!
In the meantime, since both dissertations are relevant in different ways to MMW’s work, the titles and abstracts are pasted below, in case readers are interested in seeing what we’ve been up to.
“The Pathos of Past Time”: Nostalgia in Anglo-Arab Literature
Tasnim Qutait, Uppsala University, Sweden
This study explores the theme of nostalgia in contemporary Anglo-Arab literature from the 1990s to the present. Examining the implications of nostalgic tropes in Anglophone novels by Arab writers, the study makes the case that nostalgia is a key strategy used by these writers in their critical engagement with national historiographies and diasporic identities. Taking a comparative bilingual approach, the study relates particular nostalgic narratives that recur in Anglo-Arab writing to Arabic literary traditions. The opening chapter establishes that the “standing by the ruins” topos of classical Arabic poetics is used in Anglophone works to problematise a culturally pervasive nostalgia for an Islamic golden age. The second chapter reveals how novels set in the colonial era leverage the romanticisation of anticolonial nationalism to cast a critical light on the ideological functions of authenticity. The third chapter traces the ways in which Anglophone novels dramatise the failures of post-independence regimes through the interlinked nostalgic sites of childhood, home and family. Finally, the study focuses on Arab British novelists’ depiction of the diasporic site of ‘Arab London,’ and demonstrates that nostalgia is deployed as a performative mode in these texts, enabling the creation and revision of identities for migrant and second generation characters. The interconnections of identity and nostalgia are shown to be a recurring theme in the growing field of Anglophone Arab writing. This dissertation argues that nostalgic tropes are deployed in this literature in critical ways that challenge, rather than simply reiterate, nationalist and political ideologies. Utilising the nostalgic lens as an imaginative and critical form of engagement with history, Anglo-Arab writers insist on rendering visible the present repercussions of volatile histories, even as they challenge narratives that view the past not only as better than the uncertain present but, given that uncertainty, better than any imaginable future.
“You Don’t Need a Fatwa”: Muslim Feminist Blogging as Religious Interpretation
Krista Riley, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada
Through an examination of four prominent blogs written by self-identified Muslim feminists in North America, this dissertation looks at blogging as it relates to Islam, gender, sexuality, religious interpretations, community, and the public sphere. I begin by locating blogging in relation to literature on the public sphere, counterpublics, and alternative media, looking at issues including the divisions between public and private, questions of self-disclosure and anonymity, and the different shapes that audiences and communities may take in response to a blog. Using Sa’diyya Shaikh’s (2007) notion of “tafsir through praxis” – a lens through which she considers Muslim women’s lived experiences as sources of religious interpretation – I propose the concept of “tafsir through blogging.” I argue that blogging shapes the development of religious interpretation online in a number of ways as it weaves together personal narratives, textual interpretations, short episodic posts, audiovisual elements, and public discussions with an audience of readers.The investigation of this practice through a focus on the topics of menstruation, queer issues, and gendered prayer spaces offers insights into how the bloggers’ writing practices challenge dominant discourses about women’s bodies, construct online interpretive communities, and provide new perspectives on Muslim feminist work. My examination of the bloggers’ discussion of menstruation looks at how the writers challenge expectations that menstruation should be kept private and conceptions of menstruating bodies as contaminated. Next, I look at how the bloggers use their writing to point to the limitations of dominant Muslim discourses on queer sexualities and relationships. Through an examination of blog posts and comments related to women’s prayer spaces in mosques, I consider the collective, public, and counterpublic dimensions of tafsir through blogging. The dissertation concludes by considering what the format of blogging means for questions of authority and legitimacy among Muslim feminists, suggesting that for these women writers whose ideas and online writing styles may be seen as far outside of Islamic orthodoxy, blogging provides them an alternate avenue for establishing legitimacy as participants in public conversations about gender and Islam.