Three Questions with Zeynep Korkman & Sherene Razack, Editors of “Transnational Feminist Approaches to Anti-Muslim Racism”

Zeynep Korkman and Sherene Razack are editors of “Transnational Feminist Approaches to Anti-Muslim Racism,” a new special issue of Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism that traces the global circuits and formations of power through which anti-Muslim racism travels, operates, and shapes local contexts. The full issue is free to read through the end of June; start reading here.

What makes “Transnational Feminist Approaches to Anti-Muslim Racism” unique or essential? What does it do that no other collection has done before?

Transnational feminists begin with the idea that gender is not an abstract system but rather one that emerges in and through global capitalism, imperialism, colonialism, and neo-colonialism. Attentive not only to the differences in women’s lives but also to the inequalities among women, transnational feminists have long had a preoccupation with global circuits of power. This collection of essays offers insight into how anti-Muslim racism travels along such global circuits. As racism travels and becomes attached to local conflicts, Muslims are installed as a pre-modern, barbaric, racial Other, a racial category that consolidates white supremacy and other civilizational discourses. The collection is the first to discuss how global white supremacy is upheld through anti-Muslim racism.

The transnational feminist analysis that this special issue embraces emphasizes that anti-Muslim racism is a gendered phenomenon. Muslim women are cast as singularly oppressed by Muslim men who in turn are cast as the universal enemy. Meriting extraordinary levels of violence, Muslims are imagined globally as threats to civilization who must be met with force. The global figures of the Muslim as “terrorist,” and the Muslim woman as oppressed and in need of saving, handily obscure the tremendous force that is directed at Muslim communities. Although the discourses of anti-Muslim racism travel globally, there is no singular overbearing structure of oppression. Likewise, Muslims are not any one thing. This special issue attends to the imbrication of the global with the local and to Muslims as complex and dynamically constituted social and political subjects.

What are some topics that readers can expect to find covered in the issue?

Readers of this special issue will be introduced to the interconnections between gendered anti-Muslim legal projects across the globe. In her article Natasha Bakht reveals how there have been attempts to ban Muslim women’s clothing across the globe, bans articulated as about saving Muslim women from the barbarism of their communities even as they impose a host of restrictions and punishments. Muslims meet these challenges in a host of ways. Readers will meet Bengali women who negotiated the transnational spaces opened up by US Cold War–era imperialist ambitions (Shehabuddin), Muslim women in Russia who draw on narratives of religious and cultural histories of strength to resist their racialization in contemporary Russia (Rabinovitch), and pious Pakistani women who draw on narratives of secularism to stake their rights claims (Jamal). The special issue offers a unique look into a revolutionary politics and resistance in the Muslim world through an exploration of the aesthetic practices of Muslim artists (Ali Bhutto) who ask whether a Muslim warrior drag queen can take us to a queer Muslim futurism.

How do you imagine the issue could be used in courses, or as a basis for future scholarship?

“The transnational terrain of anti-Muslim racism demands solidarities across regions.”

The special issue will be of interest to scholars who explore how class, gender, and sexuality are central to formations of racial dominance, how these discourses travel globally, and how to resist. Gender studies scholars will find a nuanced consideration of agency and feminist political organizing. All readers will be able to deepen their knowledge of how race, class, gender, and sexuality interlock in women’s lives, in national discourses, and in imperial and colonial systems.

The enduring contribution of the issue is the message that the transnational terrain of anti-Muslim racism demands solidarities across regions. As feminists, we must learn and unlearn as we trace the investments we each bring to a transnational feminist politics. Our scholarship has to bear the weight of these critical reflections on our own praxis.

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