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The Reconfiguration of Gender, Violence and Sexuality

Session XII-14, 2022 Annual Meeting

On Sunday, December 4 at 11:00 am

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Presentations
  • Sexual harassment in public places including the street and buses is common in Egypt: 63% of women in 2019 reported having experienced harassment in the previous twelve months (Arab Barometer, 2019). Anti-harassment activism began before the 2011 revolution and expanded enormously afterwards, with a groundswell of new youth-led groups and 2014 penal code amendments which facilitated criminal prosecution. Authors including Paul Amar (2013) and Nicole Sunday Grove (2015) caution that common methods of anti-harassment activism may enable police to abuse working-class men on the pretext of combatting harassment. In discussing a 2008 bill developed by a women’s rights NGO, Amar argues that “little thought was given to the ease by which the police…. could misuse it to justify mass arrests of working-class boys engaged in any kind of flirting.” Grove examines the use by the NGO HarassMap of GIS technology to map areas where harassment occurs, speculating that this surveillance could help police effectively target poor men. These concerns are intuitively persuasive, as ethnographies of Cairo have documented systematic police abuse of young poor men (Ismail 2006, 2012). They also dovetail with feminist research in the U.S. highlighting the tendency to associate sexual violence with marginalized groups such as Black men (Bumiller, 2008). This paper tests the concerns raised at a speculative level by Amar and Grove by examining a database of newspaper reports of criminal complaints filed against harassers in 2014-5 created by the Daftar Ahwal Data Research Institute, and media discussions of more recent harassment cases and of the causes of harassment. An examination of over TV talk shows addressing harassment between 2006 and 2021, and of newspapers, demonstrates that before 2011, speculation that harassers were usually poor was common, appearing in such for a as the editorial page of the government newspaper al-Ahram and famous host Mona Shazli’s talk show. After 2011, speakers on the most widely-watched programs regularly argued that men of all classes harass. Assessing whether working class men are disproportionately targeted in criminal complaints is harder, as there is no data on all men accused of this crime. However, reports of criminal complaints between 2014-5 compiled by Deftar Ahwal, and later media coverage, document alleged harassment by both working and non-working class harassers, including Tuk Tuk drivers, an electrician, the owner of a tourist bazaar in Luxor and drivers in cars other than taxis (whose purchase would be beyond the reach of most working-class men).
  • The standard of Tunisian-ness, also known as Tunisianité, has deep roots in Tunisian history. (Merone, 2015; Zemni, 2016; Helal, 2019). The process of democratization that started in 2011 maintained the stigma of Islamists, Salafists, and illiberal Muslims as backward and non-modern, only updating the requirements of Tunisianité. Once Ennahdha, the Islamist party in government, reshaped the boundaries of Tunisianité to secure their survival (Cavatorta and Merone, 2015; Haugbølle, 2015), the illiberal, pious women activists became the new excluded from the opportunity of being model citizens. They do not fit in the frame of Tunisianité because their will of performing a non-Nahdawi, non-moderate understanding of Islam, does not match with the needs of a liberal and laïque political system. (Asad, 2003). After a progressive securitization of Tunisian politics, illiberal, pious Muslim women activists today do not engage in active political opposition, do not organize direct actions against the state nor encourage other people to do so. Yet, they feel marginalized and excluded from their own society and government. Despite the perception of exclusion, they employ their time and energies imagining an alternative and more Islamic society, resisting and challenging the restrictive state-led impositions and narratives such as the unique model for being a ‘proper’ Tunisian citizen. The methodology consists of extensive, ethnographic fieldwork in Tunisia where I spent two years from 2018 to 2020, conducting interviews and participant observation for my doctoral dissertation. During this time, I managed to observe and interview what I called pious illiberal women within the environment of Koranic associations, non-electoral parties, and independent activists. Within the Koranic associations, I took part myself in tilawa classes, while I had access to the members of non-electoral parties and independent activists through the snowballing method. I managed to conduct a survey of eighteen women from the Koranic association and did semi-structured and informal interviews with fifteen pious illiberal women in total. Thus, this study, as the result of my Ph.D. research, claims that pious illiberal women do have agency by showing evidence of their political activism – within the koranic associations and not only – and their resistance to the national identity myth of Tunisianité.
  • Violence against women is a global phenomenon that takes various forms ranging from sexual assault to femicide. Whether committed by an individual, a group, or the state, it is a serious problem that affects millions of women all over the world including Turkey, which has recently seen an alarming increase in the number of violent acts towards women. Even though the issue has started to draw more attention from the public, the media, and the academia, the focus has been mostly on the current events. Yet, it is impossible to understand and prevent violence against women in a given society without studying its historical origins. This paper explores sexual violence in the early Turkish Republic to shed light on the origins of the current problems, attitudes, policies, and debates regarding the topic in contemporary Turkey. Based on daily newspapers, memoirs, court records, statistical reports, and parliamentary proceedings, it examines a large number of cases both in urban and rural areas in the 1920s and 30s to determine the most common forms of sexual violence experienced by women, the identity and the motivation of the perpetrators, and the different methods women used to resist it. The paper also analyzes the ways in which sexual violence was defined, categorized, and discussed by different sections of the society in the press, in the legal system, and in the parliament. It studies the attempts of the government to prevent and punish sexual violence and the effectiveness of their policies. Finally, the paper demonstrates how sexual violence was connected to the rapid political, social, and cultural transformation in the country that entailed years of war, political upheaval, the nation-building project, and modernization, which caused serious tension and anxiety over women’s sexuality and morality.
  • In premodern North Africa, legal practice allowed a couple to marry after engaging in (consensual) premarital sex, thus averting punishment, avoiding stigma, and allowing a path to paternity and inheritance rights for children. This study draws on disputes preserved in fatwa collections such as Ahmad al-Wansharisi’s (d. 1508) al-Miʿyar to explore how the interplay between women, family, community, and the legal system led to resolution of these extramarital encounters. Using the case study of a young woman from fifteenth-century Marinid Fez who ran away with a man she wanted to marry to circumvent her father’s authority, in addition to other cases from the region, this paper argues that the legal system functioned in premodern North Africa as an integral part of social networks, and that women’s engagement with Islamic law was routine and demonstrated clear agency. As a point of comparison, the paper will also show how women’s relationship to the law changed in the modern period as colonial and post-colonial legal reforms gutted the legal system and the social networks that supported it (Hallaq 2009). This combined with a loss of societal, communal, and family support, brought on in part by neoliberal economic reforms, to the direct detriment of women (Salime 2015; Errazzouki 2014). Analyzing the fifteenth-century case of sexual agency alongside the tragedy of a Moroccan teenager who committed suicide in 2012 after family, community, and legal system came together to pressure her into marrying her alleged rapist, I argue that changes in both social and legal structures put premodern dispute resolution mechanisms in jeopardy and forced women who strayed outside of legally or socially accepted boundaries into more vulnerable positions with less support to resolve transgressions. Works Cited: Errazzouki, Samia. 2014. “Working-class women revolt: gendered political economy in Morocco.” The Journal of North African Studies 19 (2): 259-267. Hallaq, Wael. 2009. An Introduction to Islamic Law. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Salime, Zakia. 2015. “Arab Revolutions: Legible, Illegible Bodies.” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 35 (3): 525-538. al-Wansharisi, Ahmad ibn Yahya. 1981. Al-Miʿyar al-Muʿrib wa al-Jamiʿ al-Mughrib ʿan Fatawi Ahl Ifriqiyah wa al-Andalus wa al-Maghrib [The Comprehensive Criterion and the Extensive Collection of Fatwas of the People of Ifriqiyya and al-Andalus and al-Maghrib]. Edited by Muhammad Hajji. 13 vols. Rabat: Wizarat al-Awqaf wa al-Shuʾun al-Islamiyya lil-Mamlaka al-Maghribiyya.
  • Over the last three decades before the 1979 revolution in Iran, 1,186 narrative features were made, from which 1,115 titles were screened in the country’s movie theaters. Many of these films contributed to the development and maintenance of a hybrid form of cinematic production and aesthetic style collectively known as Filmfarsi. Continuously censured by the critics inside Iran, there has been a surge of interest in the Anglophone research on Filmfarsi in the 2010s. Following the lead of Hamid Naficy’s A Social History of Iranian Cinema (2011), many of the recent configurations of Filmfarsi have considered it a reflection of Iranian society at the time, and thus, reproduced misconceptions about its generative and receptive mechanisms. This research paper challenges the claims about Filmfarsi’s generic substructure, star system, and perceived opposition to the so-called “new wave” of Iranian cinema. Instead, it argues for a reconsideration of Filmfarsi as an inevitable mode of production with an audiovisual style shaped by the clash of its producers’ aspirations for an international standard with the economic and technological constraints of a fledgling industry. Specifically, I argue that male stardom carried a weighty share of the compensation for the shortcomings of Filmfarsi in its competition with the cinematic imports. Therefore, it is necessary to move beyond genre approaches and representation surveys of the pre-revolutionary Iranian popular cinema toward a socio-cinematic analysis of its star images. Using R. W. Connell’s theoretical framework on masculinities and benefitting from archival research into a variety of Persian pop magazines and trade presses since the early 1960s, I specifically investigate four modes of Iranian hegemonic masculinities embodied by Mohammad Ali Fardin, Reza Beyk Imanverdi, Naser Malak Motii, and Behrouz Vossoughi. As exemplars of the culturally exalted forms of manhood, these stars were responsible for the production of 316 features or more than 25% of the overall products of the pre-revolutionary Iranian cinema. These actors’ popularity along with their occasional performance in critically acclaimed films necessitate re-examining their on-screen persona and off-screen presence in the public sphere. This investigation offers insight into the construction of stars, superstars, and cult stars as well as their contribution to the consolidation or transformation of cultural norms and social traditions. Instead of taking popular cinema as the mirror reflection of society and culture, then, this study suggests that we can revisit Filmfarsi as the cinematic encapsulation of a nation’s gendered desires, yearnings, and shortcomings.
  • Much research on gender in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region uses “gender” as code for “women” (Inhorn 2014), with some recent exceptions examining the construction of masculinity (Inhorn & Naguib 2018; Ghannam 2013; Ouzgane 2006). While these studies show how men and women are active participants in and influence both public and private spheres (Meneley 1996), only a handful of studies exists examining MENA men in private spaces “doing” domesticity. Research exists examining masculinities at home elsewhere (Meah & Jackson 2013; Swenson 2009), but MENA masculinity studies is limited in comparison to masculinity studies worldwide (Inhorn 2014). This research builds on hegemonic masculinities (Connell & Messerschmidt 2005) to examine multiple masculinities (Sobal 2005) shaped by particular social and historical contexts (Ouzgane 2006), the positionality and subjectivities of individuals. Though extensive literature exists on Moroccan women in the public sphere (Ennaji 2016; Cairoli 2011; Newcomb 2009; Ennaji & Sadiqi 2008; Gray 2006 & 2001; Kapchan 1996; Mernissi 1975), simultaneously less research explores the ways in which men “do domesticity.” This paper will examine the ways urban Moroccan middle-class men interact within the private spheres of life, why they do so and what this means for gender roles in Morocco. For some urban middle-class Moroccan men, being a good father means taking an active role in his children’s lives and taking care of them with the help of his wife. This is not true for all urban middle-class men but most said that they were more willing to help with cooking, cleaning and childcare than their father had been: showing a generational shift. Additionally, the vast majority of participants said that doing housework does not lower the level of a man’s masculinity. Despite this, every Moroccan woman that I talked to does the vast majority of reproductive labor around the house. This paper will explore the dynamic nature of Moroccan masculinity across the life cycle: from early marriage, to being a father, and being retired. I place urban Moroccan middle-class masculinities in context with Moroccan femininities and highlight both male and female voices. These findings are based on 17 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Rabat, Morocco including 57 semi-structured interviews and extensive participant observation.