My argument revolves around two distinct but entangled lines of inquiry. The first considers the spectacle of Muslim female injury/vulnerability in relation to projects of global solidarity and sisterhood. In light of the entrenched, recursive nature of prevailing associations between Islam and spectacularized cultural violence, I ask what counts as a feminist injury and for whom. Under what conditions is the normative feminist gaze scandalized, and what does this imply for the politics of seeing and not seeing? I argue that in addition to the long-sedimented orientalist trope of Muslim women's bodies under threat, secular liberal sensibilities toward pain—visible, bodily, and attributable to religious backwardness—render certain kinds of injury always already scandalous. In contrast, less spectacular structural violence does not offend liberal sensibilities in quite the same manner. In the second part of the essay, I turn to the effects of maintaining a distinction between religiously inflicted illiberal pain and less visible secular forms of suffering. Moral outrage at scandalous forms of punishment precludes attending to systemic forms of subjugation that reside in the political rather than the cultural. I show how the resulting analytical blind spots allow questions of female desire and sexual agency to be perpetually elided. I draw on examples of fatwas in shalish (informal community hearings) and legal judgments on rape in Bangladesh to make my argument.
Research Article| December 01 2015
Dina M. Siddiqi; Scandals of Seduction and the Seductions of Scandal. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 1 December 2015; 35 (3): 508–524. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/1089201X-3426373
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