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But I do still think we must recognize that feminist projects are historically specific formations, just like the human rights projects that have overtaken and in many ways subsumed them. Feminist projects deserve analysis. The challenges to your scholarship on these issues seem to have come from a variety of positions. Could I ask you to respond to this charge and broader feminist responses to your work? I always appreciate serious engagement with my work, even as I may lick my wounds when shortcomings or oversights are revealed. Let me explain why. I was a young scholar.

I had no job at the time. So I wrote myself into the sentence Saba quoted in order not to appear to be criticizing only others. But the thrust of my article was precisely against resistance as the frame. And I think of Veiled Sentiments as a deeply ethnographic illustration of exactly what Mahmood is arguing: Her criticism in Politics of Piety always felt unfair because of the backstory.

I learned a lesson: I do think feminists and other scholars can disagree with me, and I appreciate it when they engage with my arguments seriously. I sometimes feel awkward taking critical positions toward feminism. When colleagues take on my arguments in the spirit of a common effort to figure out what to think and where to stand on complex issues, I learn from them. They were most concerned about how I might be undermining internal feminist critics.

They forced me to consider how my location in the United States, my disciplinary orientation as an anthropologist, and the double consciousness that my fieldwork in rural Egypt has given me might have overdetermined my stance. Now, part of what I understand you to be saying is that the understandings of feminists such as these are anchored in their location as educated, cosmopolitan, middle-class Muslim elites and do not resonate with the lived experiences, moral imaginaries, and Islamic discourses of, say, the rural Egyptian women whom you have worked with.

Now, that is quite a lot to ask of ethnography in the present context, so what are the chances of such a research program succeeding? Sindre, you are so European! I have followed my heart and mind, taking up problematics when they arise as I return regularly to Egypt, continue to learn from colleagues and students, and watch the devastating ways that US and European politics and popular culture deal with the region I care about. Some critiques have come from feminism and the international purchase of ideals of gender equality.

Prejudices have been mobilized to rationalize the political and military involvement of US and European powers in the region. Given this political context for any of us who work on and in the Middle East or on Muslims, I feel myself to be doing engaged or insurgent anthropology. Didier Fassin, as we mentioned earlier, talks more modestly of public ethnography. Is this new work that puts ethnography to this more political purpose going to be effective?

But I do hope that it will make a difference to the ways people understand the lives of others. And I hope that it will draw attention to the dangerous politics of representations of Muslim women. Said and the Unsaid.


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Can you tell us more about what Said and his work have meant to you over the years? But in recent years, I have also felt a responsibility to take up the much more difficult work that he, my father, and many others devoted so much of their lives to: I take it from the acknowledgments in one of your books that is not so well known to anthropologists, Nakba: Your father had returned to live in Ramallah in the s, and he passed away in That, of course, is as true in as it was in , and given the far-right drift of Israeli politics, the entrenchment of the occupation and Israeli settler colonialism, and the routinization and normalization of the violence to which Palestinians are subjected in their everyday lives, it seems set to continue for the foreseeable future.

But your own dissidence as a scholar is also at work here: And so it seems to me that your work on Palestinian memories of can also be seen as forming part of a wider argument about what you perceive the task of anthropology in general to be and the task of a public anthropology in particular to be.


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In the context of the particularly fraught issue of Palestine, what do you think are the challenges and limits of anthropological advocacy? His move back to Palestine—from which he, like the majority of Palestinians, was expelled in —opened up that world as a reality to me, even though our whole family had always lived under the shadow of Palestine and with the struggles for justice that he and others had been involved with. For those of us living in the United States, one of the biggest challenges is to crack the powerful propaganda machine that has sought to silence our story and erase the basic facts.

I found myself next to my dear colleague Mahmood Mamdani. I told him that I felt this marked the passing of a generation. I think he meant my generation, but I hesitantly picked up the mantle. As I said earlier, I hate conflict. I hate to see suffering. And injustice infuriates me. It is so wretched being there and watching what Palestinians are being put through.

Dramas of Nationhood: The Politics of Television in Egypt, Abu-Lughod

So I had to find a different way. At the same time, I had colleagues at Columbia who also cared about the issues, and we decided to do something positive. Our main goal was to support scholarship on Palestine and Palestinians, especially the work of young scholars. We hoped to strengthen connections with Palestinian academic institutions like Birzeit University, so embattled and isolated. When my daughter graduated from high school, she decided she wanted to go to Palestine.

I accompanied her, returning for the first time since my father had passed away. I came to know better some Palestinian feminist colleagues, who were just so impressive. I began to want to learn more and more. It feels important to make this learning part of my work. I am proud of what we have supported and done at the Center for Palestine Studies.

Published Lewis Henry Morgan Lectures

And then, last year, I had a big honor. Some of the most stimulating of these have been comparative and have brought Palestinian studies into conversation with indigenous and native studies.

Social Evolution & The Rise of Capitalism

Edward Said was a literary theorist. He taught us about the power of representations.

Do Muslim Women Need Saving?

He also appreciated the promise of the human imagination. So I decided to take my audience on an imaginative journey to other places in the world that were, like Israel, settled by European colonists who violently subjugated and tried to destroy the local populations living on the land they wanted for themselves. This is a country whose government had finally apologized to the indigenous Australians for what had been done to them.

I had also visited the University of British Columbia in Canada. Thanks to the struggles of First Nations peoples, there have been timid efforts to acknowledge the wrongs done to those who had been there prior to the colonists, mostly through flawed liberal multicultural policies. These forms of recognition, many quite symbolic, fall far short of justice. They do not address the significance of the founding violences of these nation-states. Nor do they do enough to address the inequalities that persist as a result.

But when I tried to transpose what I had seen in Canada and Australia to Israel, I realized that we were being asked to imagine the unimaginable: By imagining scenarios like the Welcome to Country and Acknowledgement of Country ritual protocols in Australia or the Welcome Plaza of the anthropology museum in Vancouver, which acknowledges the traditional owners of the land on which it had been built still housing the ghosts of their extraordinary artistic and cultural accomplishments , the stark situation was exposed.

I am still thinking through the issues. Anthropologists actually may have a lot to say because we can introduce different comparisons and fresh ways of thinking about politics and sovereignty. We have just had two full years of discussion and debate within the American Anthropological Association, spurred by the proposal of a resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions, a resolution that I strongly supported Abu-Lughod a.

I never dreamed this could happen, and I so wish my parents had lived to see this moment.

Lila Abu-Lughod

Even though the boycott resolution finally lost by a tiny margin only 39 votes in the wake of interference by outside organizations that poured resources into opposing the resolution, including intimidation at the personal and institutional levels anthroboycott , there is no turning back. Too many anthropologists have learned too much about the injustices. They will now be more attuned to news of more. I always felt somehow that my parents were puzzled that I chose anthropology, with its colonial heritage and its popular association with the exotic.

They must have been bemused that I lived the kind of life it entailed, with so much time spent doing fieldwork in rural communities in Egypt, even though it was they who first made me love Egypt. My father lived and breathed politics, and my urbanist mother was outspoken and had formidable moral courage. I am more comfortable listening to others. I prefer to watch rather than direct. Anthropology was right for me. Her first book, Veiled Sentiments, is about the politics of sentiment and cultural expression in a Bedouin community in Egypt.

It is best known for its arguments about the complexity of culture. An article from the book received the Stirling Award for Contributions to Psychological Anthropology. Her second book, based on fieldwork in the same community is framed as a feminist ethnography. Her third ethnography, Dramas of Nationhood: The Politics of Television in Egypt, is a media ethnography that contributes to the anthropological study of nations and nationalism. It explores the tensions between the social inequalities that bedevil nations and the cultural forms, like television soap operas, that try to address them.

Outside the USA, see our international sales information. University of Chicago Press: About Contact News Giving to the Press. An Anthropology of the Machine Michael Fisch. How do people come to think of themselves as part of a nation? Dramas of Nationhood identifies a fantastic cultural form that binds together the Egyptian nation—television serials. These melodramatic programs—like soap operas but more closely tied to political and social issues than their Western counterparts—have been shown on television in Egypt for more than thirty years.