This special issue of the Journal of Middle Eastern Women’s Studies, examines the intersection of consumer capitalism, women, and the newly emergent “Islamic” culture industry. In this consumerist Islamic culture industry, a series of images, practices, knowledges, and commodities are marketed specifically to “Muslim women.” How does this industry, as well as the objects, meanings, and performances that circulate within it, shape the expression and constitution of femininity and piety? This issue addresses this question through the geographically wide-ranging research of an interdisciplinary group of scholars. The articles analyze advertisements of beauty products (Egypt), Muslim women’s new lifestyle magazines (the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Kuwait, and Indonesia), fashionable Islamic clothing catalogues (Turkey), and Muslim women’s literature translated into English.
The results reveal that the increasing mediation of contemporary Muslim femininities through market forces impacts women’s piety, identity, and belonging in complex ways. The Islamic culture industry uses—and creates—networks to circulate signifiers of Islamic identity while also reconfiguring Islamic practice according to the exigencies of the capitalist market and its power structures. This entails the fashioning of gendered Islamic subjectivities.
As Muslim women stake out their positions vis-à-vis consumer capitalism and the Islamic culture industry, they actively engage with given Islamic practice and knowledge as well as with modalities of capitalism. They often navigate between certain Orientalist stereotypes that marketed images sometimes challenge and sometimes reify. The continuing centrality of the veil epitomizes the simultaneous challenge to and reification of stereotypes, as it becomes a marker of agency, self-expression, and empowerment. At the same time, representations of self-determined, independent, and professional Muslim women conform to images of the ideal consumer. While the veiled images reinscribe Islamic norms and identifications by emphasizing particular ways of being Muslim for women, they also transform the very content and contours of Islamic piety and femininity. The essays in this issue also reveal how Muslim women’s bodies circulate in the market, turning into commodities themselves. Muslim women are not only targeted as a consumer niche, but their bodies constitute a territory on which capitalism stakes its claims.
Western theories of the development of capitalism traditionally assume that a new, secular rationality will take hold in society, undermining or limiting the role of religion. This issue, on the contrary, demonstrates the mutual capitalization of religion and the market. The points where they diverge—in the tensions and oppositions between capitalism and piety—cause anxiety about virtue traded for commercial value. Here we explore both the benefits and the costs of that mutual capitalization.
"Clay Times Three: The Tale of Three Nashville, Indiana, Potteries represents an important first step in chronicling the rich pottery traditions of Brown County, Indiana. ... This book is a worthwhile read for anyone interested in Brown County history, American pottery, and the arts and crafts of Indiana."
Read the rest of his review here.
Before July ends, I thought I should let you know about the titles reviewed in this month's issue of Choice (requires subscription):
Colonialism and Violence in Nigeria
"This book is another strong contribution from Africa's most prolific historian. . . . Recommended."
The Islamic Manuscript Tradition
"This handsome, large-format volume presents eight essays written in conjunction with an exhibition of the rich collection of Islamic books at Indiana University. . . . This book is a pleasure to hold and to read. . . . Highly recommended."
The New African Diaspora
". . . engaging, thought-provoking, and wide-ranging . . . Highly recommended."
"Arguing from the works of André Bazin, Colin Young, Herb Di Gioia, and others, the authors make a case for continuous long shots, respectful engagement with subjects, a humanistic perspective that values the quotidian of people's lives, and a reluctance to indulge in pre-information about the subject matter of films' targeted topics. . . . Recommended."
Performing Messiaen's Organ Music
"Drawing on intensive experience with the music and his close relationship with Messiaen, the author provides organists and others interested in this music with an engaging, accessible narrative that sheds much new light on Messiaen's complex music, which has confounded performers for many years. . . . Highly recommended."
Women and Islamic Revival in a West African Town
". . . explores the timely and difficult topic of the impact of modern forms of Islamic revivalist movements on the Hausa-speaking population of this West African community. . . . Recommended."