Ferguson reads a 2009–11 debate over the proposed reissue of Syria's Personal Status Code in the Syrian feminist journal al-Thara to highlight the role women's rights discourse plays in disciplining and producing political subjects. She draws on Talal Asad's observation that “languages of justice do not simply justify political acts, they help to shape political actors.” In the case of al-Thara, Ferguson argues, “women's rights” functions as one such language of justice, helping shape the political subjectivities of those who speak in its name. She shows how invocations of women's rights help fashion subjects who share a faith in modernity and progress and an aversion to tradition, a distancing from what is deemed religious in favor of what is considered secular, and a confidence in the promises of the nation, the universal, and the international. This debate also demonstrates how invocations of women's rights are inflected by the history and political specificities of the contexts in which they are deployed. The article asks how formulating arguments around women's rights serves to influence and delimit political claims and possible alliances.

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