Posts Tagged ‘audited class’

Les Femmes du Maroc photography by Lalla Essaydi

April 26, 2011

My class got a stimulating break from the usual routine today for a field trip to the art museum. We were shown two sketches of Matisse’s odalisques (drawn at the time of France’s colonial empire in North Africa) and a large photograph by Lalla Essaydi, a contemporary Moroccan expat artist.

I don’t think this picture is the exact one we looked at (I couldn’t find a copy online), but it’s very similar. Essaydi uses henna (interesting) to write, in Arabic calligraphy (traditionally a male sport—so also interesting), passages from the Qur’an and her own diary (very interesting!) to cover both the background and the subject of her art, as you can see.

To use a nauseatingly liberal arts phrase, there is a ton to unpack here. We talked about it for a long time and I won’t go into it all, but one point in particular was very thought-provoking:

Someone brought up the significance of words—whether they were verses from the Qur’an or the artist’s own—on the shroud itself, as if saddling the woman with their weight. A great observation, I thought! The veil is imbued with meaning [transcribed with language], whether we intend it to be or not.

My introduction didn’t really do Lalla Essaydi justice, but you can check out more of her fascinating work here.

WSJ review of A Quiet Revolution

April 24, 2011

Leila Ahmed* is coming out with a new book called A Quiet Revolution about the resurgence of the veil in the last 30 years. Fascinating!

*For the class I’m auditing we’re reading Women and Gender in Islam the same author. I haven’t gotten through the whole thing, but I liked what I read a lot.

From the Wall Street Journal review:

Even if the veil in America is being disentangled from many of its traditional meanings, it remains a theological symbol, tainted by a long history of religious traditions that fall harder on women than on men.

This is true and it’s very scary.

The good news is that American Muslims—unlike their counterparts in France—have the freedom to decide what the veil means and whether they would like to use it or set it aside.

My reality. Makes it hard, though, to imagine something outside that narrative.

Why My Women/Gender/Islam Class Sometimes Makes Me Uncomfortable

February 24, 2011

For the standards of this school, it’s a pretty large discussion class, with over 20 people sitting around a sort-of-pretentious boardroom table. Though I’m only auditing and don’t have to turn in any written assignments (which is GLORIOUS), I’ve been trying my best to keep up with the readings, of which there are a lot!

What makes me uneasy sometimes is that our discussions force me to confront some really, really bad stuff about Muslims. Not about Islam—and the professor is fantastic at pointing out this distinction as well—but about the people all over the world (and the history of the world) who profess to profess Islam.

Today, for example, someone brought up the story of Faleh Hassan Almaleki, the Iraqi man who ran over his daughter with his car, then called it an “honor killing.” Which led predictably to the topic of religiously justified honor killings in general, naturally causing me to SUIMS.*

*Shift Uncomfortably In My Seat. (Duh. A GOOD ONE, RIGHT.)

Something else I can’t forget, probably the worst thing that’s happened so far, is what I overheard a girl say to a classmate before class one day:

“I just don’t see how, based on what we’re learning, you can be a feminist and religious at the same time.”

Yikes!

But I keep reminding myself:

  • The preconceived notions of smart, informed, cultivated liberal arts college kids are SO hardly the worst of what’s out there. Their opinions are a good window into what kinds of misconceptions exist in general, giving me a better idea of how to communicate on the subject.
  • This type of confrontation is EXACTLY what is healthy in the realm of identity study; it’s an excellent thing, even if I don’t speak up every time. The Bad Stuff isn’t going to go away if I just don’t think about it.

There’s also my self-consciousness about being an obvious Muslim female perspective in a “Women & Gender in Islam” class. I’m always worried about representing Muslims poorly or unjustly, but I do think it’s mostly self-consciousness (and that I’m distorting my own authority in my head). Working on it!

Overall—and I’ll tell anyone who has a half-second to listen—I am madly in love with the class. The readings are great, the professor is great, my fellow classmates are great, the discussions are great. The 75 minutes whiz by every time.

Auditing: “Women and Gender in Islam”

February 10, 2011

I have the good fortune right now of being able to audit a college class called “Women and Gender in Islam.” It wasn’t specifically in the plan, but after only a couple of sessions I can see that it’ll provide plenty of blog fodder: the professor is phenomenal, and since it’s a discussion class, it’ll be great to hear others’ perspectives on a set of highly related topics.

It’s like a turbocharged jump-start of topics to think about, which is SO convenient.

The reason I bring it up is to explain that my experience in the course will give my posts an inevitably academic bent, at least for the next few months. Its syllabus includes a whole bunch of relevant and valuable texts, so I’ll likely be referring and responding to them throughout. While I don’t want to rely on the class too heavily, I can’t pretend it won’t affect this blog.

More than anything else, this is me forcing myself not to plagiarize, because I know I’ll want to!