Saba Mahmood’s 2005 Politics of Piety is an excellent example of evaluation in action.
Mahmood’s book is a study of women’s participation in the Islamic revival across the Middle East. Mahmood – a feminist social anthropologist with left-wing, secular political values – wanted to understand why women should become such active participants in a movement that seemingly promoted their subjugation. As Mahmood observed, women’s active participation in the conservative Islamic revival presented (and presents) a difficult question for Western feminists: how to balance cultural sensitivity and promotion of religious freedom and pluralism with the feminist project of women’s liberation? Mahmood’s response was to conduct a detailed evaluation of the arguments made by both sides, examining, in particular, the reasoning of female Muslims themselves. In a key moment of evaluation, Mahmood suggests that Western feminist notions of agency are inadequate to arguments about female Muslim piety. Where Western feminists often restrict definitions of women’s agency to acts that undermine the normal, male-dominated order of things, Mahmood suggests, instead, that agency can encompass female acts that uphold apparently patriarchal values.
Ultimately the Western feminist framework is, in her evaluation, inadequate and insufficient for discussing women’s groups in the Islamic revival.
Table of Contents
Ways in to the Text
Who is Saba Mahmood
What does The Politics of Piety Say?
Why does The Politics of Piety Matter?
Section 1: Influences
Module 1: The Author and the Historical Context
Module 2: Academic Context
Module 3: The Problem
Module 4: The Author's Contribution
Section 2: Ideas
Module 5: Main Ideas
Module 6: Secondary Ideas
Module 7: Achievement
Module 8: Place in the Author's Work
Section 3: Impact
Module 9: The First Responses
Module 10: The Evolving Debate
Module 11: Impact and Influence Today
Module 12: Where Next?
Glossary of Terms
People Mentioned in the Text
Dr Jessica Johnson holds a PhD in social anthropology from the University of Cambridge and is currently a lecturer at the Department of African Studies and Anthropology at the University of Birmingham. Her research focuses on Southern Africa, in particular the anthropology of gender and law in Malawi.
Dr Ian Fairweather is lecturer in social anthropology at the University of Manchester. His research focuses on religious behavior and on the ways in which contemporary postcolonial identity strategies are articulated performatively.