Workshop: Rights Discourses and Women’s Rights (January 2011)

In January, 2011, Mada al-Carmel’s Gender Studies Program hosted Lila Abu Lughod, Professor of Social Sciences at Columbia University in New York City, who gave a talk titled, “Are Rights Frameworks, Even Islamic Feminist Ones, Adequate for Women? An Anthropological View.”

Abu Lughod spoke about the differences between the “universality” of Islamic feminist discourse contrasted with the lives of Bedouin women in Egyptian villages, who are the “imagined beneficiaries” of this discourse. Professor Abu-Lughod pointed out that, while this discourse promotes the rights of women, it ignores the complicated nature of their lives, and that rights discourse holds society’s patriarchal structure responsible for violence and inequality, while ignoring totally the significance of poverty and the legacy of colonialism. She cautioned against an exaggerated adoption of a rights discourse.

Professor Abu Lughod also noted that, despite her criticism of the rights discourse in this context, and notwithstanding the limitations of this discourse, it is important and must not be set aside completely.