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"Between Orientalism and Postmodernism: The Changing Nature of Western Feminist Thought Towards the Middle East"

In: Hawwa
Author:
Shadi Hamid
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Abstract

1980s postmodernism provided a viable theoretical alternative to existing discourses. Where pre-postmodern second-wave feminism subscribed to prescriptive notions of what a woman should or should not be, postmodern feminists (or post-feminists) instead articulated a much more diverse, malleable, morally and culturally relative notion of what it means to be a woman. This new relativist approach meant that feminists were now making a conscious effort to engage with third-world women in a way that acknowledged cultural particularities. Today Muslim women are struggling to find a place for themselves. Western feminists have the potential to play an important role in the process of change in the Muslim world. The nature of this role has yet to be determined. In recent decades, Western feminists have had a tendency to superimpose their own culturally specific notions of equality on the Muslim world. Now, there is the risk that a new generation of postmodern intellectuals will decide to slowly disengage. With this in mind, finding the middle ground has never been more urgent.

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