Chapter 17: Critical international relations feminism: the case of American Shia women
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This chapter addresses the emergence and development of the postcolonial feminist critique. It shows how liberal feminism marginalizes and isolates non-Western women. A Western secular vision of the world tends to view religion as static and unchangeable, monolithic and oppressive. By not considering the diversity in interpretations of religion, and Islam in particular, one misses the agency with which women in these communities’ advocate for gender justice through reinterpreting sacred texts and challenging the validity of patriarchal cultures. This chapter critically examines the lived experiences of Muslim American Shia women who are actively negotiating between Islamic gender complementarity and liberal gender equality norms. It argues that such women are active agents in interpreting their religion and resisting both Western liberal approaches and traditional Islamic cultural norms, as well as creating new Muslim American identities. Shia mosques in the United States provide an example that tests how norms are being transformed through constant critical dialogue that can be observed at the mosque, where new meanings are exchanged amongst practicing Muslims.

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Edited by Steven C. Roach