Performing in/outside Islam: Music and gendered cultural politics in the Middle East and North Africa

ArticleinText and Performance Quarterly 24(3-4):212-232 · July 2004with5 Reads
DOI: 10.1080/1046293042000312742


    Women performers, particularly those in theatre, music, dance, and performance art, frequently experience inequitable treatment in Islamic societies. This study investigates the lived experience of women musicians in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), with particular focus on the resistance discourse in Tunisian women's music. Based on a year‐long ethnography situated primarily in the North African Tunisia's capital of Tunis, this study critiques the intersections of religion, sexuality, politics, and power for women in the MENA. It examines the restrictive legislation of Qur'anic verses that compel women to refrain from nushuz (rebellion) and tabarruj (strutting about/displaying of charms). It looks at how this legislation is applied to women public performers through the interlocking hegemonic discourses of religious, governmental, familial, and other institutions. It examines how resistant discursive space(s) articulate subversive and sexual messages through song. Finally, the study addresses the sociocultural and historical roots of a specific imagined woman, the musical performer as a sexualized Other and encoded under the dominant ideology of the region as resisting the tenets of Islam.