Efrati revisits the British strategy of efficient rule, largely adopted by the Iraqi government they erected and the consequent gender policy that emerged. The attempt to control Iraq through "authentic leaders"—giving them legal and political powers—marginalized the interests of women and virtually sacrificed their well-being altogether. Iraqi women refused to resign themselves to this fate. From the state's early days, they drew attention to the biases of the Tribal Criminal and Civil Disputes Regulation (TCCDR) and the absence of state intervention in matters of personal status and resisted women's disenfranchisement. Following the coup of 1958, their criticism helped precipitate the dissolution of the TCCDR and the ratification of the Personal Status Law. A new government gender discourse shaped by these past battles arose, yet the U.S.-led invasion of 2003, rather than helping cement women's rights into law, reinstated the British approach. Pressured to secure order and reestablish a pro-Western Iraq, the Americans increasingly turned to the country's "authentic leaders" to maintain control while continuing to marginalize women. Efrati considers Iraqi women's efforts to preserve the progress they have made, utterly defeating the notion that they have been passive witnesses to history.
Positioning women within their individual economic situations, identities, families, and geographies, Women in the Middle East examines the experiences of women in the Ottoman Empire and Turkey, in Iran, and in all the Arab countries. Keddie discusses the interaction of a changing Islam with political, cultural, and socioeconomic developments. In doing so, she shows that, like other major religions, Islam incorporated ideas and practices of male superiority but also provoked challenges to them. Keddie breaks with notions of Middle Eastern women as faceless victims, and assesses their involvement in the rise of modern nationalist, socialist, and Islamist movements. While acknowledging that conservative trends are strong, she notes that there have been significant improvements in Middle Eastern women's suffrage, education, marital choice, and health.
Not only is this book a sensitive ethnography of a critical but largely ignored dimension of the Islamic revival, it is also an unflinching critique of the secular-liberal assumptions by which some people hold such movements to account. The book addresses three central questions: How do movements of moral reform help us rethink the normative liberal account of politics? How does the adherence of women to the patriarchal norms at the core of such movements parochialize key assumptions within feminist theory about freedom, agency, authority, and the human subject? How does a consideration of debates about embodied religious rituals among Islamists and their secular critics help us understand the conceptual relationship between bodily form and political imaginaries? Politics of Piety is essential reading for anyone interested in issues at the nexus of ethics and politics, embodiment and gender, and liberalism and postcolonialism.
In a substantial new preface, Mahmood addresses the controversy sparked by the original publication of her book and the scholarly discussions that have ensued.