Fatema Mernissi for Our Times

October 7, 2016 | 4:30PM – 10:00PM
UC Berkeley, CA.
Time & Location TBA

Organized by Prof. Minoo Moallem and  Prof. Paola Bacchetta

This conference will honor the life and work of the recently deceased pioneer feminist sociologist and writer Fatema Mernissi (Fez, Morocco 1940 – Rabat, Morocco 30 November 2015). The conference aims to bring into relief and to reflect together upon Mernissi’s immense contributions for our times. Mernissi’s work is celebrated in Arabic, French and English, and has been translated into multiple other languages as well. (In 2003 she won Spain’s prestigious Prince of Asturias prize for the Spanish versions of her work). Mernissi’s influence reaches from the Arab Islamicate worlds to India and Pakistan, across France and Spain, Britain, the U.S.A., Australia, across Latin America, and elsewhere. Mernissi is most known for critically challenging injustice based in gender and sexual relations of power in the Muslim-majority world(s), while remaining deeply decolonial and critical of the global North as well. Her work is extremely timely to help us grapple with some of the most basic and acute social crises of our times.

Mernissi’s work comprises mainly three areas: historical sociological, contemporary sociological and literary. Her historical and contemporary sociological studies focus primarily on critical readings of structures of misogyny in Muslim societies. She reveals complex and multifaceted genealogies of Islamic discourses and interpretive politics across different slices of time. She challenges earlier and contemporary authoritative Islamic sources and interpretations, pointing to colonial and indigenous re-writings which invariably worsen women’s social positionings. She advocates for reform within the context of Muslim societies and Islamic “traditions” (which she understands as none other than crystalized practices) including the Hadith. And she is globally known for her continuous efforts to promote gender justice. Mernissi calls women the builders of civil society and calls on them to create both social and epistemic change. Mernissi’s literary writing farther explores these same thematics, yet in a genre that allows for broad schemes of affect and identification with her heroines and her social critiques. She often tells her stories through the eyes of some of the most subaltern subjects in Muslim societies. And she sometimes turns her focus towards a critique of Western presumptions about Muslim societies and women.

The conference will bring together an international group of scholars who discuss some of the most pressing issues with regard to gender, women and sexuality in the Muslim and Arab worlds in dialogue with Mernissi’s work in their own main languages (Arabic, Farsi, French and later English) to tease out what, in the immediate aftermath, we can learn today from Fatema Mernissi.

fatema mernissi

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