Jihad Watch Advisory Board Vice President Hugh Fitzgerald writes for Campus Watch in FrontPage about Columbia University”s new chair of Israel studies, Lila Abu-Lughod:
Judging by the press coverage of Lila Abu-Lughod, a professor of sociology, her family background is of keen interest. Or possibly that background has proved to be quite useful. In the view of Antony T. Sullivan (reviewing her book, Veiled Sentiments, in The World and I, January 1991), her father Ibrahim was a “distinguished Palestinian-American political scientist” and his “Jewish wife, Janet” is “herself a world-class sociologist.” Their daughter, raised a Muslim, spent childhood summers in Jordan and she seldom fails to mention her “heritage.”
This background makes her serving on the committee searching for a scholar to occupy Columbia’s new chair of Israel studies especially inapt.
Lila Abu-Lughod specializes on “topics of gender, class, and modernity.” She lived for 2 years with the Baladi tribe of Egyptian Bedouins, and wrote two books about them: Veiled Sentiments: Honor and Poetry in a Bedouin Society, and Writing Women’s Worlds: Bedouin Stories. Still, she has reservations in this kind of writing, for as she told an interviewer for the Cairo Times (March 4-17, 1999) she “worries about privileging her own voice over her subjects.”
Abu-Lughod is the editor of a book of essays, Remaking Women: Feminism and Modernity, which has been hailed as “an important contribution to comparative postcolonial and feminist studies.” The book, she explains, “seeks to tackle comfortable and accepted linear notions of progress, modernity, and emancipation in modern academic works on gender in the postcolonial world.”
Why, Abu-Lughod asks, should the West’s ideas about “progress” and “modernity” be unquestionably accepted? Perhaps Western “progress” is not progress, and “modernity” is not modernity. And Western feminists should not be so hasty in denouncing the veil and the burka, because they act as a “portable seclusion,” your very own zenana or haramlik, which you can bring with you anywhere.
Her essay “The Marriage of Feminism and Islamism in Egypt: Selective Repudiation as a Dynamic of Postcolonial Cultural Politics,” in Remaking Women, offers a critique of what Abu-Lughod calls “companionate marriage” — i.e. monogamy, which the highly judgmental Western world apparently thinks is the only way to go about things, and fails to appreciate the many benefits to women from polygamy.
Read it all. Good links in the original.