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Oh Woman, Where Art You? Unthinking Women at the Margins through Sharia Court Records
Engaging with history from the margins – perspectives not in positions of power – necessitates creativity in finding and reading sources. Sources widely used to tell such stories are Sharia Court Records: particularly to discover histories that include women. Unlike in other written historical documents, women are widely represented in court records, even if described by the scribe’s words. The existing literature on social history based on Sharia Court Records that include women’s perspectives shed light on various social topics such as Marriage (Cuno 2015), Family (Agmon 2006; Doumani 2017), and the construction of Gender (Tucker 1998). While women are considered a marginalized group worth studying due to their former absence in history, it remains unclear from their accounts who these “women” are. Through a close reading of Sharia Court Records where women appear as claimants at the Sharia Court in Al-Salt (Jordan) between 1919-1921, this article investigates how marginality is constructed and who is included in the thus designated group. In the context of a disintegrating Ottoman Empire, this article focuses on the former Ottoman periphery at the dawn of the consolidation of the British Mandate and the Nation State. It asks: Who are the women who can go to court at this particular time? What, if at all, do they have in common beyond their legal status as “woman”? What insight do we get into the Salti social fabric if we do not consider “women” as a homogenous group? What other forms of marginality can we discover by unthinking “women” as a homogenous group? What power structures can be unearthed at the court by following the cases closely?
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