Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Summary Post 4/21


Abu-Lughod, Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving? Anthropological Reflections on Cultural Relativism and Its Others

            This article emphasizes the need to understand cultural differences.  Abu- Lughod questions whether the notion that we need to help save Muslim women is appropriate.  Therefore, she investigates “saving”, stressing that the idea of saving often implies that the savers are the superior group and thus that their own ideas of how to live are correct.  The article explains that it is necessary to accept differences, and thus accept that different women may desire different things and have various ideas about justice and freedom. 
            One issue Abu-Lughod explains is the way that the American society frames these women.  Often it is done in a religious or cultural manner instead of looking at the political and historical forces that actually shaped the foundation of their own society.  Furthermore, we often fail to look at the world as an interconnected sphere and instead view cultures as distinct and divided.  Abu-Lughod stresses that with this divided view often comes a more competitive perspective, for example the idea of the West versus East.
            Women are also often used in “colonial feminism” in which political leaders use the notion of the plight of women to support military intervention or war.  Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak called this “white men saving brown women from brown men”.  This colonial feminism rhetoric is something that we need to be cautious of.
            It is also necessary to look at things such as the burqa with a historical lens.  It marks the separation of the women’s sphere from the men’s sphere and is even viewed as freeing by some because it allows women to venture outside of segregated areas.  Just as we have appropriate attires for various functions or events, all cultures have different social norms and morals that influence what they wear.  Thus, there is a status associated with one’s dress and the burqa is no exception.  In addition, there are many types of coverings that have various meanings.  For many women, the act of veiling is voluntary and associated with her family’s honor and morality.  Abu-Lughod explains the importance in not viewing the burqa as a symbol of “unfreedom” but rather as a product of social and historical contexts. 

Bunch, Whose Security?

This article stresses the idea that feminists have a minute role in global politics.  Bunch believes that this arena remains majorly driven by the military and corporations.  Thus, the women’s movement has had little impact on global affairs or on how US foreign policy affects the world and other women.  Looking at 9/11, the US governmental response could have been different for instance it could have turned its focus to human security, however military actions were taken instead.  Therefore, the chance to confront these issues as well as the opportunity to address women’s human rights were lost due to the US response to 9/11. 
These issues pertaining to terrorism, the military, war, and national security are dominated by men.  Therefore, Bunch emphasizes that women are taking a backseat while US policy is hypocritical when pertaining to human rights policies.  Bunch explains that it is necessary for the women’s movement to thus act on a more global scale rather than focusing solely on national issues.  

Ibrahim, Living While Muslim: Human Rights Advocacy in the Post-9/11 Era

            Ibrahim explains her experience as a spokesperson and human rights activist.  She is an American who was born in Iraq and thus uses her unique experiences and identity as a way to raise consciousness about the violence and discrimination occurring in Iraq under US occupation.  Thus, she offers insight about the kidnappings and violence that many Iraqis are faced with.  In this way Ibrahim works to “humanize the victims of war”.  Corporate-run media often covers up what is actually occurring, thus it is necessary to bring real information to American citizens so that a more accurate depiction is drawn.  Along with violence and discrimination, there has been a decline in infrastructure, electricity and education.  Specifically, children are faced with overcrowding at schools, a decline in literacy rates, as well as an increase in school dropouts.  The entire system has been in decline and the quality of education available to Iraqi children is of concern.   In addition, children and teachers at the schools are faced with violence by both Americans and Iraqis.  This school-targeted violence makes even learning spaces dangerous.
            The article also emphasizes the increase in Muslim discrimination that has occurred in the US since 9/11.  Illegal searches and detainments need to be better publicized.  This treatment, Ibrahim explains leads to the alienation of groups.  Even though she is an American citizen she explains that she is being treated as if she will never belong.  Because of this and other types of discrimination, Ibrahim has focused her efforts on defending American human rights despite one’s ethnicity, race, gender or religion.  

4 comments:

  1. Exactly ! Lila Abu Lughod made an effort to explain the importance of embracing other cultures and differences, through introducing the concept of "cultural relativism". No one culture is better than the other, all cultures are the same but vary in the societies eyes due to historical,political, economic and religious reasons. And through these historical and social contexts the "difference" is constructed.

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