USA today to be reminded that the resurgence of the religious right, thecreation of ‘moral panic’ and the resultant focus on women’s bodies andregulation of ‘deviant’ sexualities are not the purview of ‘Third world’ orIslamic societies alone (see Asad 1993), nor can they be explained by theoriesof incomplete modernization.Tentative attempts at a synthetic understanding of the relationshipbetween gender/sexuality, nationalism and the state have been initiatedwithin postcolonial feminist scholarship, and specifically within literature onIslam and gender.
In her introduction to one of the pioneering texts withinthis field,
Gender, Islam and the State
, Deniz Kandiyoti proposes that ‘post-independence trajectories of modern states and variations in the deploymentof Islam in relation to different nationalisms, state ideologies and opposi-tional social movements are of central importance to an understanding of thecondition of women’ (1991: 2). In fact, as I argue through this paper, thereverse is equally true: the construction and regulation of norms of genderand sexuality are crucial to processes of state formation
understood asrelations of ruling
and their legitimation (Smith 1990).‘National culture’
and the processes which underlie its production,enforcement and contestation
thus provides the conceptual link betweenwork on gender and nationalism, and gender/women and the state. In theirmonumental work, Corrigan and Sayer argue that the
‘state’ is as much ‘the concentrated and organized force of society’
. . .
in thecultural sense as in the economic, concerning wider forms of regulation and modesof social regulation through which capitalist relations of production andpatriarchal relations of reproduction are organized. (1985: 5)
If the ‘state’ as an ‘idea’ is deconstructed and understood primarily as a claimto legitimacy then the construction, invocation and deployment of anormative ‘national culture’ can be understood more clearly as a means tosecure that legitimacy (Abrams 1988). Since both ‘nationalism’ and ‘culture’are deeply gendered discourses, the field of ‘national culture’ is a particularlytreacherous one for women. In fact, postcolonial feminist work has notedhow these gendered discourses have ‘precipitated
. . .
iconic forms of womanhood, which, in metaphorizing women as symbolic bearers of national identity, have rendered the materiality of women’s lives and bodiesall the more vulnerable to forms of violence and violent exclusion’ (Banerjee
2004: 126).In this paper I focus on two instances of the state’s engagement in moralregulation
in the first case, through a programme of ‘Islamization’, inparticular the passage of a set of laws designed to control women’s sexuality;and in the second, through the case of a ‘runaway love marriage’. Legislationsets limits for the social imagination through the construction/imposition of
2 See Abu-Lughod(1993), Kandiyoti(1991), Moghadam(1994). Onnationalism andgender/sexuality, seeMosse (1985) andParker
(1992).On the link betweengender andnationalism withinthe Indiansubcontinent, seeButalia (2000) andHussain
MORAL REGULATION IN A POSTCOLONIAL NATION-STATE