Muslim Women and the Politics of Representation

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Jasmin Zine



This paper examines the politics of knowledge production as it
relates to Muslim women in western literar y traditions and contemporary
feminist writing, with a view to understanding the
political, ideological, and economic mediations that have historically
framed these representations. The meta-narrative of the
Muslim woman has shifted from the bold queens of medieval literature
to colonial images of the seraglio's veiled, secluded, and
oppressed women. Contemporary feminist writing and popular
culture have reproduced the colonial motifs of Muslim women,
and these have regained currency in the aftermath of9/1 l.
Drawing upon the work of Mohja Kahf, this paper begins by
mapping the evolution of the Muslim woman archetype in
western literary traditions. The paper then examines how some
contemporary feminist literature has reproduced in new ways
the discursive tropes that have had historical currency in
Muslim women's textual representation. The analysis is attentive
to the ways in which the cultural production of knowledge
about Muslim women has been implicated historically by the
relations of power between the Muslim world and the West.

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