Age, gender and slavery in and out of the Persian harem: A different story

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Despite the ever-growing literature on slavery and that of oppression of women in the harem and the expanding material on memories and autobiographies, it is difficult to find room to valorize experiences of those women who do not use writing as a medium of communication. Recollected memories of life histories of women are still hard to contextualize within mainstream feminist epistemology. It is the contention of this article that academic universal categories, formulated by Anglophone Western theorists, do not help to explain the lived experiences of most women the world over. Drawing on subjective experiences of one woman and autobiographical memories of the author, this article will argue that well-known categories such as “black” and “slave girl” fail to explain the remembered life of one “black” “harem slave girl”, who felt empowered by her harem years.

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... Like the veil it has also been critically reassessed. See Ahmed (1982), Afshar (2000), Pierce (1993). ...
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The concept of implicit religion recognizes the many connections between the secular and the religious, unlike mainstream social narratives that continue to oppose them. Understanding that religious and non-religious worldviews both fulfil the human need for meaning and that they are equally capable of becoming intransigent ideologies, is ever more critical because of the instrumentalization of the religious-secular divide in present-day domestic and international politics. Modernity's dualism possesses global ramifications; by conflating Western identity and progress with secularism, it painted the rest of the world - particularly the Orient - with the brush of religion and backwardness. The Muslim veil has constituted a symbol to denote Muslim religious fanaticism and misogyny, in contrast to Western freedom, feminism and democracy. Its constitutive role in producing modern Western self-identity, through contradistinction, explains the continued debates on Muslim veiling practices, as well as the tenacity of the veil sign. This article traces the history of the veil with the aim of simultaneously charting and unpacking its reification in Western contexts.
This article examines cultural attitudes on race and African slavery in late Qajar chronicles prior to abolition in 1929. In contrast to previous scholarship, Qajar textual sources reveal that elite cultural attitudes were relevant in structuring the social conditions of enslavement in Iran. Visual depictions and narratives about African eunuchs and concubines naturalized the violent acquisition and use of the Other. Slave narratives also bear witness to how such views of African corporeality determined the social worth of eunuchs and concubines in the domestic sphere.
Focusing on black women Qadam-Kheyr and Sorur in Mahshid Amirshahi’s novel Dadeh Qadam-Kheyr (1999), this article examines literary representations of the African-Iranian presence, and provides a critique of race and slavery in twentieth-century Iran. In light of the history of the Iranian slave trade until 1928, and the reconstruction of race and gender identities along Eurocentric lines of nationalism in Iran, the novel under scrutiny is a dynamic site of struggle between an “Iranian” literary discourse and its “non-Persian” Others. The “aesthetics of alterity” at the heart of the text is, therefore, the interplay between the repressed title-character Qadam-Kheyr and the resilient minor character Sorur, each registering Amirshahi’s artistic intervention into a forgotten corner of Iranian history.
When Behind Harem Walls was finally published in 1960, it came out only in England, in a hardbound edition. Despite the wide circulation of the 1958 A.P. feature, the book proved to be a hard sell. McIntosh & Otis, Jane’s New York agent, attempted to place the book in the United States, but could find a home for it only with Alvin Redman of London, as part of its travel series that included books on Nepal, Red China, Ghana, and Mexico.1 Jane and Ken changed agents in 1959, and her new agent, August Lenniger, sent it out to more than a dozen U.S. publishers between November 1959 and February 1960.2 Rejections came back from Crown Publishers, Orion Press, Longmans Green & Co., Criterion Books, William Morrow, Hastings Books, Doubleday, W.W. Norton, Rand McNally, Fleet, and just about every major paperback book publisher, including Gold Medal, Dell, Pocket Books, Ace, Ballantine, and Hillman.
Outline of a Theory of Practice is recognized as a major theoretical text on the foundations of anthropology and sociology. Pierre Bourdieu, a distinguished French anthropologist, develops a theory of practice which is simultaneously a critique of the methods and postures of social science and a general account of how human action should be understood. With his central concept of the habitus, the principle which negotiates between objective structures and practices, Bourdieu is able to transcend the dichotomies which have shaped theoretical thinking about the social world. The author draws on his fieldwork in Kabylia (Algeria) to illustrate his theoretical propositions. With detailed study of matrimonial strategies and the role of rite and myth, he analyses the dialectical process of the 'incorporation of structures' and the objectification of habitus, whereby social formations tend to reproduce themselves. A rigorous consistent materialist approach lays the foundations for a theory of symbolic capital and, through analysis of the different modes of domination, a theory of symbolic power.
The agenda of contemporary western feminism focuses on equal participation in work and education, reproductive rights, and sexual freedom. But what does feminism mean to the women of rural India who work someone else's fields, young Thai girls in the sex industry in Bangkok, or Filipino maids working for wealthy women in Hong Kong? In this 1998 book, Chilla Bulbeck presents a bold challenge to the hegemony of white, western feminism in this incisive and wide-ranging exploration of the lived experiences of 'women of colour'. She examines debates on human rights, family relationships, sexuality, and notions of the individual and community to show how their meanings and significance in different parts of the world contest the issues which preoccupy contemporary Anglophone feminists. She then turns the focus back on Anglo culture to illustrate how the theories and politics of western feminism are viewed by non-western women.
I want to look at the traditional ‘orientalising’ invention of Arab women. I begin from the study of Orientalism, traditional and modern, made by Edward Said1 as a general frame in approaching the problem of Arab femininity. Said raises the issue of Arab females deferred;2 this is the first step towards analysing texts featuring and framing Arab women. According to Said, Orientalism is ‘a style of thought based upon an ontological and epistemological distinction made between the Orient and the Occident’.3 Orientalism as a critical discourse offers a valuable understanding of the dynamic of power by which the Arab or ‘Oriental’ individual was constructed and ultimately appropriated by inherently authoritative modes of writing.
This article addresses the issue of how sociologists can re-integrate the study, and the status, of the individual into social theory. The author suggests that biography and autobiography provide important resources, through which it is possible to see how specific people internalise particular social expectations and aspirations. The essay includes a brief discussion of aspects of the lives of Simone de Beauvoir and Virginia Woolf.
Much of nineteenth-century Iranian history is still written from European materials--travellers’ accounts, private papers, diplomatic or commercial archives--and nowhere is that disadvantage seen more keenly than in social and economic studies. The most recent, exceedingly useful compilation of economic selections for Qajar Iran, The Economic History of Iran 1800-1914, edited by Charles Issawi, has only two extracts from first-hand nineteenth century Persian sources. Inevitably that gives a false perspective to any discussion of the internal economic structure of the country, and likewise social attitudes are glimpsed through the palimpsest of western interpretations. A basic prerequisite is the more systematic collection and classification of Persian material, from government archives, vaqf or private possession; it is only their intensive study that will provide the information about and insight into the social and economic problems that are beginning to be sketched on a more theoretical or discursive level; detailed monographic studies, on regions, towns, communities, classes, individual trades or industries, have to clothe the skeletal hypotheses which otherwise might run the risk of empty theorizing.
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