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Job Talk: Narrating Iraqi Women's Lives in Diaspora: Piety, Performance, and New Political Subjectivities

The CEU Campus
Tuesday, May 8, 2018, 3:30 pm

This talk will explore how Iraqi migrant and refugee women in North America negotiate religious identity, and how for some Muslim women veiling is increasingly becoming an expression of a new politicized 'Islamic feminism'. Iraqi refugees arriving in the US and Canada after 2003 found themselves at the intersections of new and old Muslim and Arab communities, secular and religious feminisms, and first and second-generation ideals of female modesty. Having been thrust into the global diaspora of Iraqis as a result of the ongoing civil war, young women adopt new learnt behaviours from their social groups and mosque groups. Growing up in diaspora, they negotiate both religious and political identities within the plurality of multicultural and multiethnic spaces that protect their right to cover their bodies and practice their faith. Based on a series of life histories collected with Iraqi women in Amman, Toronto and Detroit over five years, the talk will trace a new trend in grassroots piety among young Iraqi women in diaspora – practices not dissimilar to those explored by Saba Mahmood in Egypt’s da’wa party, and more recently in Angela Ong's study of Salafist British women. The lecture argues that adopting the hijab as religious performance becomes a means of protecting female reputation, but also, importantly, connecting Muslim migrants to the spread of a global and reimagined Salafist message of Islam.

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Nadia Jones-Gailani is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Gender and History at Central European University in Budapest. Having graduated in 2013, she took up a three-year Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Department of History at the University of South Florida (2013-2016). She recently submitted her first book manuscript for publication with the University of Toronto Press. The book explores the memories and identities of Iraqi women refugees who have resettled in Jordan, Canada and the U.S. over the past three decades. With a new focus on Muslim feminism(s) and women’s political subjectivity in the Modern Arab World, her research interests focus on individual life histories and what these can tell us about women’s day-to-day experiences of war, loss, and displacement.