Accepted paper:

Muslim women's rights activists' growing visibility within the legal landscape in the city of Lucknow

Authors:

Mengia Hong Tschalaer (John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY)

Paper short abstract:

This paper looks at the manners by which Lucknow-based Muslim women’s rights activists carefully orchestrate their public appearance through their bodily performance in order to carve out space for themselves in the public sphere and within the legal landscape.

Paper long abstract:

Within the last decade, Muslim women's rights activists in postcolonial India have acquired increasing visibility. This paper analyses the strategies by which the presidents and founding members of Lucknow's three biggest Muslim women organizations, namely the All India Muslim Women's Personal Law Board and the Indian Muslim Women's Movement (Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan) and the Women's Club (Bazme Khawateen), engage with the complex heterogeneous legal landscape in order to carve out space for themselves in the public sphere and within the legal landscape. It looks at the manners by which Muslim women's rights activists carefully orchestrate their public appearance through their bodily performance, and utilise the media in the staging of their imaginaries concerning the 'true Islam' and the 'ideal Muslim woman', within the public space. This article argues that Muslim women's rights activists' increasing visibility in the public space contributes to the emergence of finely crafted and complex socio-legal spaces for women's rights activists. These spaces offer room for Muslim women's rights activists to destabilise hegemonic patterns of knowledge and authority and to produce alternative discourses on gender in Islam. Laying bare the possibilities Islamic discourse and its embodiment offer for women's agency, this paper challenges liberal and modernist perspectives that view religion as being obstructive to women's freedom and autonomy.

panel P07
Contemporary Lucknow: life with "too much history"