Gender Politics in Sudan: Islamism, Socialism, and the State

Gender Politics in Sudan: Islamism, Socialism, and the State

Gender Politics in Sudan: Islamism, Socialism, and the State

Gender Politics in Sudan: Islamism, Socialism, and the State

Synopsis

Focusing on the relationship between gender and the state in the construction of national identity politics in twentieth-century northern Sudan, the author investigates the mechanisms that the state and political and religious interest groups employ for achieving political and cultural hegemony. Hale argues that such a process involves the transformation of culture through the involvement of women in both left-wing and Islamist revolutionary movements. In drawing parallels between the gender ideology of secular and religious organizations in Sudan, Hale analyzes male positioning of women within the culture to serve the movement. Using data from fieldwork conducted between 1961 and 1988, she investigates the conditions under which women's culture can be active, generative, positive expressions of resistance and transformation. Hale argues that in northern Sudan women may be using Islam to construct their own identity and improve their situation. Nevertheless, she raises questions about the barriers that women may face, now that the Islamic state is achieving hegemony, and discusses the limits of identity politics.

Excerpt

As gender issues and studies in the late twentieth century have moved from the fringes to center stage of social discourse, they have become increasingly politicized. Community and national leaders, intellectuals, and ordinary women and men all over the world have taken up these issues. So central have they become that the [post]modern state, its apparatuses, political parties, and interest groups (even those in seeming opposition to the state) have put gender on the agenda and currently attempt to shape gender identity and politics to serve whatever priorities head their programs. Consequently, all too often, gender researchers find themselves having to take these state agendas, institutions, and activities into serious account. in so doing some are finding that states and parties are serving their agendas by manipulating the social and cultural identities of women, positioning them within the culture often to their detriment.

Of course, women are social actors, not just passive receptors of state or party actions. So, located at the center of gender discourse is how women respond, adapt, ignore, redirect, or even subvert such state and party activities and projects intended to shape their behavior, lives, and thoughts. Here, too, researchers have to delve into a highly politicized terrain in order to discover how women, as agents of their own being and becoming, negotiate and determine their roles.

In the "North" (i.e., the advanced capitalist world) as well as in the "South" (i.e., the periphery) it is becoming clearer that the debates, actions, and struggles of the state and women are not homogeneous or universal. This suggests that researchers of gender issues, more specifically social scientists and humanists, now have to pay close attention to . . .

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