The week’s readings present a complex investigation in gender study. From an overarching perspective, this reaction paper argues that traditional means of examining gender in the Middle East are biased politically and culturally. …
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Subsequently, it is necessary to consider new epistemological frameworks for investigating gender in these regions. “How Not to Study Gender in the Middle East” contains a number of significant meta-critical insights into the process of gender study in the Middle East. The reading ultimately caused me to believe that gender study in the Middle East cannot be examined under a banner of ‘Middle East,’ but should be considered in terms of regional banners. Additionally, I now believe that one must now consider the histories intertwined with these regional divisions. Perhaps the most significant aspect of this vision of gender is that it functions to deconstruct the analytical discussion from one of simple genitalia, to one of complex and shifting and socio-dynamic political patterns. This critical representation of gender is one that has undoubtedly been implemented within the Western world. Still, I believe that within Western society, the emphasis on micro-political elements appears considerably less significant than in the divisive ‘Middle Eastern’ region. Indeed, the division between Western modes of gender analysis and Middle Eastern understandings is a critical interstice along which one cannot make ordinary one-to-one comparisons, but rather must implement a complex array of philosophical changes. The above argument is supported by Lazreg (1988) who further considers notions of gender within the East and West. While “How Not to Study Gender in the Middle East” indicates that Eastern and Western gender analysis requires separate epistemological frameworks, Lazreg argues that many of the same fallacies are implemented in both Eastern and Western analytical frameworks. Again, my reaction to these arguments is that as scholars we must continually examined our own political and cultural bias. When one considers Lazreg (1988) in conjunction with “How Not to Study Gender in the Middle East” it is clear that the works significantly augment each other. Specifically, ‘How Not to Study Gender’ meta-critically deconstructs the analytic framework, while Lazreg’s work establishes specific areas where this deconstruction occurs. Namely, Lazreg indicates that, “one's womanhood coincides with the realization that it has already been appropriated in one form or another by outsiders, women as well as men, experts in things Middle Eastern” (Lazreg 1988, p. 81). Abu-Lugod (2002) takes this a step further and argues that the analytical focus should not be centered on a gendered dialectic, but should instead focus on notions of human justice. I believe that the main significance of these findings is that they speak to a higher pragmatic knowledge about the way that critical practices have too emphatically used religion as a critical lens through which to judge Middle Eastern approaches to gender. In terms of the implementation of these new epistemological frameworks, there are a number of conclusions. I believe the most significant deconstruction is Abu-Lughod’s examination of the burqa in Afghan society. Even after the American ‘liberation’ of the region, Afghan women continued to wear the burqa to the consternation of American observers who had contextualized this in terms of patriarchal and oppressive dialectic. Instead, Abu-Lughod demonstrates that the burqa merely came to represent a modest form of fashion. This insight leads one to the recognition that, in large part, the Western critical lens may itself be politically motivated. For example, consider Abu-Lughod’s argument that one should not interpret the burqua as a limit of human agency. While this is a significant insight, it is even more relevant when considered in terms of the larger
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