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Islam, Women Activists, and the Agency of Interpretation

Tuesday, February 21, 2012
5:00 AM
2239 Lane Hall

Rachel Rinaldo, Visiting Assistant Professor of Sociology and Women's Studies

In the last three decades, there has been a global resurgence of religion, including pious religious movements within Islam and Christianity. The role these new forms of religious expression play in women’s lives have been much debated, especially in the wake of 9/11. This talk examines these connections between women, religion, and agency in Indonesia, the country with the world’s largest Muslim population. It draws on extensive ethnographic research with Muslim women in two organizations with very different visions of the place of religion and women in society. Islam is central to the agency of both groups of women, but it inspires divergent political goals. Key to this process is how these pious women engage with and interpret religious texts. In this sense, Islam becomes a cultural framework that women activists mobilize in diverse ways to justify very different moral visions of their nation’s future.