World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010

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SEXUALITY AND GENDER IDENTITY IN THE MUSLIM WORLD - 2/2 (465) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel
 

· NOT_DEFINED date: FRI, 23 / 2.30 - 4.30 pm

· NOT_DEFINED language: English / Français

· NOT_DEFINED description: Chair: Aymon Kreil (EHESS (Paris)/Institut d'ethnologie (Neuchâtel))

Paper presenter: Maria Malmström (PhD, School of Global Studies, Sweden), “Inner and Outer Sexual Desire among Muslim Women in Cairo”
In this paper I discuss experiences of sexual desire in relation to discourses of sexuality in the context of ‘circumcised’ Muslim women. The fieldwork was carried out in lower class neighbourhoods of Cairo from August 2002 until July 2003. The politics of female ‘circumcision’ in relation to women’s lived experiences and social meanings of the practice was studied. A qualitative and ethically sensitive methodology of participant observation guided the research. A pervasive cultural notion among my interlocutors is that women are born with two kinds of sexual desire, one inner and one outer. The outer is seen as superfluous and can be removed without destroying the inner sexuality. In the female genital mutilation discourse, ‘female circumcision’ is presented as mutilation of healthy parts of the body and the underlying purpose is presumed to be patriarchal control of women’s bodies and sexuality. Among the Cairo women, however, the social control of sexual lust among adolescents is seen as something positive and desirable. Sexual pleasure within marriage is encouraged and female circumcision is not perceived to be an obstacle for experiencing sexual enjoyment. If we analyze female circumcision and sexuality from a local perspective, a more complex picture emerges that differs from that of patriarchal control over female sexuality. This paper provides new ethnographic data on a sexual ideology which contrasts with sexual ideologies of the West.

Paper presenter: Ayse Oyku Is (Instructor, Koc University, Turkey), “Prostitution, Obscenity and Literature in the Early 20th Century Ottoman Empire”
In the early 20th century Ottoman Empire prostitution has become more ‘visible’ than the previous periods. It has taken the attention of the state, legal authorities and the society so that measures were to be taken in more systematic and bureaucratic ways. Abolitionist and regulatory formulations of the state and the campaigns of the civil society against the spread of prostitution especially increased during this period. Fuhu’ Nizamnamesi (Legal Regulations on Prostitution) was prepared in order to regulate prostitution, and associations against prostitution were founded. In the same period popular literature emerged as a genre whose main focus was obscenity and prostitution became one of the fundamental theme of this genre. In my presentation I aim to discuss the ways of the manifestations of prostitution and prostitutes in the popular obscene literature in the early 20th century Ottoman Empire. Why especially in this period prostitution and prostitutes, along with the other ‘immoral women’ representations covered that much space in popular literature is a significant matter to be analyzed. Especially during the II Constitution Period (1908-1922), the popular obscene literature became a channel which both revealed and proposed new models displaying the mentality and imaginaries regarding sexuality and woman. What also marked this period were the densely experienced wars (Balkan Wars, World War I and the Independence War). The relation between prostitution and war is significant in this context since war and militarism have become the supporters of prostitution. I will also scrutinize the relations between war experience and prostitution in literature and examine the transformation in the manifestation of prostitution with the rise of nationalism and nationalistic discourse which were emerging as popular ideologies in the Ottoman Empire at this time. As a last point, it is important to understand the accepted norms of sexuality in order to understand the sexuality (models) that prostitution offers. I will investigate the ways in which prostitution differs from the ‘normal’ and accepted codes of sexuality as manifested in the popular obscene literature in this period.

Paper presenter: Shirin Saeidi (Doctoral Candidate, University of Cambridge, UK), “Nationalism and Gender in the Middle East: Iran’s Silent Sexual Revolution during the Iran-Iraq War”
During periods of conflict, intense nationalist fervour can be generated on the back of a strong sense of exclusivity; portraying the enemy as ‘the other’ augments the collective ideology of one political group. It is putatively believed amongst feminist scholars that the relationship between nationalism and feminism can never be harmonized due to the patriarchal attributes and sentiments of nationalist enactments. Using the emergence of nationalism in Iran during its eight year war with Iraq (1980-88), this paper challenges feminist scholars over the ramifications of nationalism for states undergoing local and international political violence. Instead, by drawing on ideas resultant from archival research and interviews, this paper argues that if women adhere to nationalist conventions early on and practice them in a broad range of contexts, such as family life, it is possible to dislocate this masculine primacy. Women were able to reset ideas of ‘self’ and ‘belonging’, engendering a more inclusive approach to nationalism, which in turn even allowed perceptions of the enemy to be redressed.

Paper presenter: Abdi Amina (Independant medicine researcher), “Les femmes et le VIH/sida dans le monde et en Algérie”
Le VIH constitue la première cause de mortalité et de morbidité chez les femmes en âge de procréer12. Sur 30,8 millions d’adultes vivant avec le VIH en 2007a, 15,5 millions étaient de sexe féminin. La prévalence de l’infection à VIH chez les femmes a augmenté depuis le début des années 1990 et c’est en Afrique subsaharienne qu’elle est la plus marquée. L’Afrique australe est la plus touchée : en 2005-2006, la prévalence médiane du VIH chez les femmes enceintes recevant des soins anténataux était supérieure à 15 % dans huit pays de cette région, l’infection ayant principalement été contractée lors de rapports hétérosexuels. Dans toutes les régions, le VIH touche de manière disproportionnée les professionnelles du sexe, les toxicomanes par voie intraveineuse et les partenaires féminins d’hommes infectés. La vulnérabilité particulière des femmes à l’infection à VIH s’explique par une combinaison de facteurs biologiques et d’inégalités liées à l’appartenance sexuelle. Certaines études montrent qu’au cours d’un rapport hétérosexuel non protégé avec un partenaire infecté, les femmes risquent davantage que les hommes de contracter le virus. Le risque posé par cette différence biologique est aggravé dans les sociétés qui limitent les connaissances des femmes en matière de VIH et leur capacité à faire accepter des rapports à moindre risque. L’ostracisme, la violence des partenaires intimes et la violence sexuelle augmentent encore la vulnérabilité des femmes. Parmi les jeunes, elles sont moins nombreuses que les individus masculins à savoir que les préservatifs protègent du VIH. De plus, même si elles font généralement part d’une augmentation de l’utilisation du préservatif durant des rapports sexuels à haut risque, elles ont généralement moins tendance à se protéger que les hommes. Les femmes les plus jeunes sont les plus vulnérables. Non seulement il leur est plus difficile d’accéder aux informations sur le VIH – concernant en particulier les moyens pour elles de se protéger – mais, souvent, elles ont des rapports sexuels avec des hommes plus âgés qui possèdent une plus grande expérience sexuelle et risquent davantage d’être infectés. Les toxicomanes de sexe féminin et les professionnelles du sexe sont particulièrement vulnérables, ce qu’accentuent encore l’ostracisme, la discrimination et le caractère punitif des politiques. Chez les professionnelles du sexe, le taux d’infection à VIH est élevé dans de nombreuses régions du monde, et une forte proportion de toxicomanes se livre également au commerce du sexe. Dans les prisons, la proportion de toxicomanes est plus élevée chez les femmes que chez les hommes. L’utilisation de matériel d’injection contaminé est particulièrement répandue parmi elles, d’où des taux d’infection à VIH plus élevés. La vulnérabilité économique est un autre facteur clé de la propagation de l’infection au sein de la population féminine. Elle est parfois associée aux migrations, qui accentuent les comportements à haut risque chez les femmes, la nécessité économique pouvant les pousser au commerce du sexe. En Algérie, malgré l’islamisation en constante progression de la société et le lourd poids du conservatisme socio culturel ambiant, la voie sexuelle constitue a elle seul cinquante 50 % des modes de transmission du VIH/SIDA. Selon les dernières statistiques rendues publiques par l’institut pasteur d’Alger, il y aurait 700 cas de SIDA et 1908 cas de séropositifs. L’analyse de ces cas montre que la transmission est essentiellement hétérosexuelle et que les femmes sont plus atteintes que les hommes (ce qui confortera certainement certains fondamentalistes religieux convaincus que la femme est porteuse de tous les péchés du monde, qu’elle est l’incarnation du diable…). La tranche d’âge la plus touchée est celle des 20/50 ans mais l’on oublie souvent de faire des tests de dépistage à des tranches d’âge bien plus jeunes où la prostitution d’adolescentes est plus qu’effective. Dans un pays comme l’Algérie où l’on s’offusque dès qu’on parle d’homosexualité, où de jeunes prostitués acceptent des rapports non protégés car le client paye plus cher, le vilain virus du SIDA a de beaux jours devant lui.

Paper presenter: Itir Bagddi (Lecturer, Izmir University of Economics, Turkey), “The Effects of Failed State Developmental Projects on Women: An Alternative Approach to Sex Trafficking”
This paper will analyze the political economy of sex trafficking whereby women (and girls) are illegally transferred across borders for the purpose of prostitution. Ever since the collapse of communism the illegal trafficking of women from the post-communist states has become a major problem. In this paper I expand upon the political economy of the sex trafficking industry and provide an analysis of sex trafficking from post-communist states to the Middle East and the Mediterranean that can be understood best within the context of gendered globalization and its incorporation of post-communist states. Contrary to popular belief, poverty is not the main factor in producing the origin of sex trafficking, as is evidenced by the countries that provide the ‘supply’ of women. The paper will ultimately attempt to assess which countries create the ‘demand’ and which countries create the ‘supply’ for sex trafficking. Using the post-communist states as evidence, I argue that sex trafficking is the result of failed state developmental projects within an increasingly globalizing world where state efforts to ‘modernize’ have asymmetric effects on women. I will also claim that contrary to popular belief sex trafficking is not simply from poor states to rich states but is something that occurs among the semi-developed states, which is one of the main reasons that the Middle East and the Mediterranean are among the top receiving states for trafficked women.

Paper Presenter: Muge Ozbek (Ph.D. Candidate, Bogazici University, Ataturk Institute, Turkey), “Policing the Prostitutes in the Late Ottoman Istanbul, 1876-1914”
The proposed paper dwells on the Muslim women prostituting unlawfully in the streets of Istanbul and the governmental efforts (legal and administrative) to control them during the late Ottoman Empire. Throughout the nineteenth century, ‘regulationism’, the policy by which the prostitutes were registered and compelled to medical and administrative surveillance and spatial control, was a common characteristic for many cities and areas throughout the world. The preliminary attempts for the regulation of prostitution in the Ottoman Empire started in the late 1870s. With an ordinance introduced in 1883, the brothels around the Beyoglu quarter were provided a legal status and the prostitutes working in these brothels were registered and compelled to periodical medical examination, while Muslim women were strictly forbidden to work in these brothels. However, these regulationist attempts were far from maintaining a full control over the prostitutes. There remained a number of women prostituting illegally in the unregistered brothels, streets, fire places and hotels in various districts of Istanbul. The paper first depicts the profile of the Muslim street prostitutes in Istanbul through a survey of the police documents that relate the stories of these women and to connect this profile to the social and economic conditions of the period. Secondly, the paper aims to reveal the operations of the gendered ideology in maintaining the urban order of Istanbul by dwelling on the political and discursive constructions of prostitution, morality and urban order. Throughout the paper, the governmental efforts to control the prostituting Muslim women in the Ottoman Capital are read as a part of the governmental crisis in the late Ottoman Empire.