Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Kultur-, Sozial- und Bildungswissenschaftliche Fakultät - Humboldt-India-Project

Islamic Feminism and Muslim Women's Activism in South Asia: Comparing India, Pakistan and Bangladesh

This research project is funded by the Gerda Henkel Foundation and jointly conducted by the Cross-Section for Mediality and Intermediality in Asian and African Societies (Humboldt University) and the Institute of Islamic Studies (Free University Berlin).

It will look at the communicative strategies and practices as well as the new forms of organisation of Muslim women's rights activists in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Our research is based on the assumption that a new generation of social actors is currently emerging in South Asia, among whom a growing number of Muslim women (and men) are adapting and applying - in very diverse contexts - the discursive strategies and practices of an Islamic gender critique often labelled as "Islamic feminism".

A second basic assumption is that these new kinds of "translocal connectivities" and also "mobilities" (of ideas, people and practices) would not have been possible without the rapid medialisation of South Asian societies since the 1980s and 1990s. Two sub-projects will thus look at Muslim women activists who actively engage in debates on secular-national gender discourses and especially in the ongoing dispute about the raison d’être and reform of religion-based personal laws (for further details, please see below). The aim of this research project is to show how the (trans)local dynamics of the global discourse attached to "Islamic feminism" are - at least to a certain degree - instrumental for the emergence of new communicative spaces, forms of agency and discursive practices that are highly relevant for the dialectic relationship between secular-national and religious discourses as well as for the question of a national identity of South Asian Muslim women and men as citizens.

On a second level, our project is interested in a comparison between these dynamics of an Islamic gender critique in the geographical regions of South Asia and Southeast Asia. A workshop in April 2011 will bring together academic scholars and activists from both regions. This is going to be a closed workshop but we are also planning to hold an international conference in spring 2012 on "Gender, Islam and Feminism: Comparing South and Southeast Asia" and this conference will be open to the public and the media.

Both the workshop and conference will be organised in cooperation with Prof. Dr. Susanne Schröter, Institute of Anthropology/Cluster of Excellency "Normative Orders", project director of the research project "Feminist Discourses in the Islamic World", Goethe University Frankfurt/Main. [more]

  • Sub-project 1:
    The trans(local) dynamics of »Islamic Feminism« and the Emergence of New Subjectivities among Muslim Women in India (Nadja-Christina Schneider) [more]
  • Sub-project 2:
    Muslim Women's Activism in Jammu & Kashmir 1947-2010 and the Medialisation of Islamic Feminism (Shahnaz Khalil Khan, PhD project) [more]
Project Coordinator

Prof. Dr. Nadja-Christina Schneider
Junior Professor for Mediality and Intermediality in Asian and African Societies
Institute of Asian and African Studies
Room: 220
Phone +49 (0)30 / 2093-6643

Birgit Koch
Tel.: +49 (0)30 / 2093-6601
Fax: +49 (0)30 / 2093-6666

Cross-Section for Mediality and Intermediality
Institute of Asian and African Studies
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Unter den Linden 6
D-10099 Berlin