Muslim Feminisms and Fictions in a Postcolonial Frame: Case Studies of Nawal El Saadawi and Leila Aboulela

Alqahtani, Norah Hassan (2017) Muslim Feminisms and Fictions in a Postcolonial Frame: Case Studies of Nawal El Saadawi and Leila Aboulela. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (Full text available)

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Abstract

The postcolonial condition has had life-shaping effects on millions of individuals, in the Third World in particular. This study focuses on the different positions embraced by two authors recognized as 'Muslim feminists.' I explore how they engage with postcolonial subjects and particularly address women's questions in their contemporary societies, through analyses of such 'Muslim fictions' as Woman at Point Zero, The Fall of the Imam, and Zeina by Nawal El Saadawi and The Translator, Minaret, and Lyrics Alley by Leila Aboulela. Because a feminist movement is not autonomous, but bound to its sociopolitical context, the rise as well as the failure of secular political and social movements in Egypt have had an impact on feminist struggles. El Saadawi starts her independent secular feminism and inscribes her female characters as revolutionary subjects who rebel against Islamic patriarchal law. Using Caroline Rooney's concept of 'revolutionary spirit' and Linda Alcoff's positionality, this study demonstrates how El Saadawi enables her female characters to counter the brutality of Arab women's lives through different strategies, even hostile ones. Moreover, El Saadawi is as much a nationalist writer as she is a feminist one, so this study illustrates how the tale of the country has been interwoven with the private lives of women, in alignment with Fredric Jameson's paradigm. Whatever the limitations of El Saadawi's secular feminism have been, however, it is undeniable that her version of secular feminism prepared the ground for the new emergent movement that is Islamic feminism. This study examines Aboulela's novels as a comparative paradigm with El Saadawi's. From a committed Muslim point of view, Aboulela inscribes Islamic faith extensively in her writings. Her work offers a potentially universalizing, although not universal, rallying point; it offers a chance for women to create an Islamic spiritual site of belonging and possible solidarity that transcends social classes, ethnic differences and geographical boundaries. However, Aboulela`s work for emancipation is confined to a spiritual level and seems to be less radical in the feminist focus regarding women's rights.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Uncontrolled keywords: Muslim Feminism, Postcolonial Studies, Nawal El Saadawi, Leila Aboulela
Divisions: Faculties > Humanities > School of English
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 19 Jul 2018 15:10 UTC
Last Modified: 01 Oct 2018 23:00 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/67676 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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