Impossible Solidarities: Islam, Feminism and (fortress) Europe’s Shifting Frontiers

Impossible Solidarities: Islam, Feminism and (fortress) Europe’s shifting frontiers

Whilst co-organising a vigil this past week commemorating those who drowned in the Mediterranean attempting to breach fortress Europe, I came across a passage by the late James Baldwin that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about. The passage comes from an interview Baldwin did for the NY Times on the occasion of his 52nd birthday and his return to New York after more than a decade in Paris. Time constraints won’t allow me to give you much of a background, but given the ways in which racism and the tropes it perpetuates again and again remain as prevalent today as they were in 1977 when this article was published, it’s perhaps better you hear it as if Baldwin is speaking about Baltimore or Ferguson or even Lampadusa or Calais when he says,

there is a history we all have to contend with…For a long while, liberty was a privilege in this country–if you’re doing well, you can shout to your heart’s content, provided no one starts listening to you and your message doesn’t threaten too many people. We act as if this is a free country, until the White people tell us its not by jailing us or killing us. And a lot of us have been locked up or murdered over the centuries we’ve been here. Its a hard thing to talk about…Some people have tears in their eyes and let me know how awful they feel about the way our poor live, our blacks, or those in dozens of other countries, but people can cry much easier than they can change.

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Talk Notes from Kieran Flynn Memorial Lecture Series on Islam in the West

 

The silence around feminism and religion is a profound one, and I think some of its roots lie in the narrative of secularism and its influence on feminism in both the academy and in feminist social movements. I think the silence functions to highlight a difficulty in approaching the subject of female autonomy in relation to religion, but also indicates a negativity towards religion on the part of feminist scholars –justified or not.

Although there has been a significant amount of work on religion and patriarchy (Dominance of a society by men, or the values that uphold such dominance.) as well as on agency, autonomy, and gender; there has less on the subject of women, religion and autonomy. Continue reading