Women, Patronage, and Self-Representation in Islamic Societies By Ruggles Fairchild (editor), Albany: State University of New York Press, 2000.

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Irm Haleem

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Abstract

The aim of the authors in this book was to provide a supplementary text for studies
on gender issues in Islamic societies. Ruggles Fairchild (editor) notes that a
more significant aim of the book was to broaden not only the geographical realm
but the scope and the time frame of analysis of the studies on gender in Islamic
societies. This book examines the implicit economic, social and political influence
of elite Muslim women in their respective societies by shedding light on the
women's patronage of architecture, clothing and art. Authors argue that such
visible expressions - products of women who were otherwise invisible in society -
were, and are, reflective of women's implicit agency (means of exerting power in
society) in ancient Islamic societies. The main premise of the authors is that while
women have been absent in the explicit representation (depiction) of art,
architecture and society, they have in fact been very much present in the
background of these realms of Islamic society.
While other studies of gender have emerged from consideration of social,
economic and political structures in Muslim societies, few (if at all, argue the
authors) have emerged from an examination of "visual arts" or "visual culture" (p.
2). This is the void the book seeks to fill. In this sense this book is very important,
as it sheds light on the subtle agency of women in ancient Islamic societies and
challenges the stereotypical notion that women were (are) subservient, muted
entities in Islamic societies (past or present). In their challenge of the stereotypical
view of Muslim women in ancient Islamic societies, the authors also question the ...

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