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|Title:||The Shifting Boundaries of Gender Politics and Laicite: An Ethnography of First-generation Muslim Maghrebian Women in a Parisian banlieue|
|Advisor:||Badone, Ellen E.F.|
|Abstract:||Muslim women in France are at the center of public debates about religion in the public sphere, gender politics and immigration. The hijab or Islamic headscarf has become emblematic of these issues. Based on ethnographic research in Petit Nanterre, a suburb 15 kilometres northwest of Paris, this dissertation examines various actors who seek to compartmentalize or shape Muslim women's identities. I begin with academic anthropological approaches to Islam and women, and with changing legal and popular definitions in France of laicite (French secularism) and its relationship to Islam. I then argue that the continued marriage-partner preference for "traditional" North African women expressed by male North African immigrants constrains the identity politics of local women, while a "cultural freezing" phenomena instils greater social pressure to enact and renegotiate certain cultural and religious mores in the banlieue. These cultural preferences are fortified by local gossip focused on women's religious and sexual propriety and by the Panopticonlike architecture of the housing projects. French feminist organizations like Femmes Solidaires ("Women in Solidarity") of ten hold neo-Orientalist positions, seeking to "save" Muslim women in the banlieue, and ultimately reinforcing negative stereotypes about the headscarf and gender politics in Muslim communities. I conclude that the women of Petit Nanterre themselves move within and without these categories as postcolonial "hybrids". While French social scientists and journalists have focused on the adaptational difficulties Muslims face in a nation legally and philosophically committed to secularism, there have been few academic studies undertaken from an ethnographic perspective focused on first-generation Muslim Maghrebian women living in the banlieue. My research emphasizes their voices and migratory experiences. I demonstrate that French Muslim women are key actors in promoting the visibility of Muslims in the West and in contemporary linkages between gender politics and religion in the public sphere.|
|Appears in Collections:||Open Access Dissertations and Theses|
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