Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures. Vol. 2: Family, Law, and Politics

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Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures. Vol. 2: Family, Law, and Politics. Edited by Suad Joseph. Leiden: Brill, 2005. Pp. xxviii, 844. $326.

With the debut of volume 2 of the Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures (EWIC), a projected six-volume series, Brill Academic Publishers in the Netherlands confirms its status as the behemoth of Islamic studies publishers. Like its landmark multivolume reference work The Encyclopedia of Islam, the EWIC project has assembled a multinational team of scholars and looks set to become an indispensable reference work for the study of women, gender, and family issues throughout the Islamic world.

The EWIC series recognizes that the Islamic world umbrella is a wide one. Hence its articles cover not only core Middle Eastern, Asian, and African societies, where Muslim peoples form population majorities, but also societies that include well-established Muslim minorities, notably, western Europe and the United States. Articles also discuss some of the non-Muslim peoples who have lived in predominantly Muslim societies.

Centered on the theme "Family, Law, and Politics," volume 2 contains more than 360 articles that are grouped by subject and subdivided by region. Its subject entries include, for example, adoption, citizenship, women's participation in militaries, household forms and composition, freedom of expression, and religious associations. Two of the largest subject groups are law, further subdivided into such categories as Islamic and customary law, law enforcement, and historical trends in family law; and political-social movements, broken down into ethnic, Islamist, pacifist, millenarian, and other categories. Each article ends with bibliographic references to guide readers in further study.

My one quibble with the volume is that it has an idiosyncratic organization and lacks cross-referencing between articles. Some entry titles are opaque in their vagueness or specificity, such as "Women's Rights: Male Advocacy" and "Shah Bano Affair," respectively. Others are classified under counterintuitive headings: the article "Purdah in South Asia," for example, appears under "Political and Social Movements: Protest Movements." Readers interested in Islamic dress codes for women will need to scan the entry headings to find the articles entitled "Modesty Discourses," which offer a limited discussion of related issues. …