In this essay Mikdashi examines the legal practice of strategic conversion, or religious conversion undertaken in order to make use of different aspects of the Lebanese legal system. Mikdashi illustrates the process of strategic conversion by comparing it to that of correcting one’s sex in the census registry, an act that also changes the network of laws that applies to a citizen. A further comparison is made by introducing the practice of removing one’s madhhab completely from state census registries, a right won by activists for a secular personal status law in March 2009. Through ethnographic and archival research on these practices of strategic conversion, madhhab removal, and the legal “correction” of sex by transsexual citizens, Mikdashi questions what effect the legal and bureaucratic transformation of madhhab or sex has on the identification and/or recognition of a citizen’s sect or gender. Mikdashi teases out the different technologies through which sex, gender, madhhab, and sect are both recognized and practiced in contemporary Lebanon. She calls for the categories of madhhab and sect to be critically reinterrogated, just as the categories of sex and gender were and continue to be.
Research Article|August 01 2014
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Maya Mikdashi; Sex and Sectarianism: The Legal Architecture of Lebanese Citizenship. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 1 August 2014; 34 (2): 279–293. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/1089201X-2773851
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