Written from an ethnographic perspective, this book investigates the socio-legal aspects of Islamic jurisprudence in Gaza-Palestine. It examines the way judges, lawyers and litigants operate with respect to the law and with each other, particularly given their different positions in the power structure within the court and within society at large. The book aims at elucidating ambivalences in the codified statutes that allow the actors to find practical solutions to their (often) legally unresolved problems and to manipulate the law. The book demonstrates that present-day judges are not only confronted with novel questions they have to find an answer to, but, perhaps more importantly, they are confronted with contradictions between the letter of codified law and their own notions of justice. The author reminds us that these notions of justice should not be set a priori; they are socially constructed in particular time and space.
Making a substantial contribution to a number of theoretical debates on family law and gender, the book will appeal to both academic and non-academic readers alike.
Table of Contents
1: Introduction; 2: Islamic jurisprudence now and in the past; 3: The Gaza Shari‘a courts: an overview; 4: The daily practice of judges: perception vs reality; 5: The sociology of Nafaqa (maintenance); 6: Obedience, rebelliousness and agency; 7: The articulation of gendered parenthood: care vs guardianship; 8: Civil society, women’s movement and family law reform; 9: Change, a step at a time; 10: Epilogue
Nahda Shehada is Senior Lecturer in Gender, Culture and Development at the Institute of Social Studies (ISS), Erasmus University, Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Her major area of interest is anthropology of Islamic law, particularly in the MENA region. She has published widely in books and leading international academic journals focussing on Islamic law.
'This unique ethnography derives from patient observation of proceedings, enriched by the author’s insider knowledge of the intricate social environments in which justice is constructed in Gaza. She dialogues with actors from multiple strata, showing sensitively and impartially how they interact in, behind, and beyond the court arena. The book is a valuable addition to our sociological understanding of (Islamic) law.'
Édouard Conte, Laboratoire d'anthropologie sociale, CNRS, Paris
'Based on an in-depth investigation in Gaza courts, Nahda Shehada’s book also relies on the most relevant and up-to-date academic sources and official archives. She shows how a sharia family court really works in one contemporary Arab society: a society that is peculiar in that it suffers from daily political confinement. In Gaza, women and judges interact in the search for a both negotiated and innovative law, the least unfavourable possible for both parties. All that is brilliantly illustrated by a stimulating book that was much needed and fills a gap in anthropology.'
Bernard Botiveau, Emeritus Director of Research at the CNRS, Paris