In Unruly Women: Race, Neocolonialism, and the Hijab (Oxford UP, 2022), Falguni Sheth explores the multiple ways that liberalism is understood and exploited, and liberalism’s origin as a project of British colonialism and as a legacy of settler colonialism in the U.S. The “unruly women” in the author’s title are, in liberalism, women who do not conform or who are not “suitably feminist”—like Muslim women who veil or Black women who, really, simply exist. Falguni argues that certain key terms, such as professionalism, dismissiveness, excruciation, ontopolitics, and address are crucial to our understanding of the ways that women of color are treated in legal cases and in the broader culture as well as our understanding of the psychic violence that liberalism and colonialism perpetuate on women of color.
In our interview today, we discuss liberalism as a problem in theory, too, and not just in practice and its connections to the prejudice and discrimination faced by different groups of women of color. We also talk about the ways that feminism is defined by liberal and radical western feminists, the limitations of such understandings; specific supreme court and other legal cases involving discrimination against Muslim women; and the author explains the significance of political theory, liberal feminist theory, and theories of power to her arguments in the book overall.
Shehnaz Haqqani is an Assistant Professor of Religion at Mercer University. She earned her PhD in Islamic Studies with a focus on gender from the University of Texas at Austin in 2018. Her dissertation research explored questions of change and tradition, specifically in the context of gender and sexuality, in Islam. She can be reached at [email protected]
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