Lila Abu-Lughod

is professor of anthropology and women’s and gender studies at Columbia University. She received her PhD from Harvard University and has taught at Williams College, Princeton University, and NYU. Publications include: Dramas of Nationhood: The Politics of Television in Egypt (2004).


The Muslim woman

The power of images and the danger of pity

In the common Western imagination, the image of the veiled Muslim woman stands for oppression in the Muslim world. This makes it hard to think about the Muslim world without thinking about women, sets up an “us” and “them” relationship with Muslim women, and ignores the variety of ways of life practiced by women in different parts of the Muslim world. Anthropologist Lila Abu-Lughod emphasizes that veiling should not be confused with a lack of agency or even traditionalism. Western feminists who take it upon themselves to speak on behalf of oppressed Muslim women assume that individual desire and social convention are inherently at odds: something not borne out by the experience of Islamic society.

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