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an editor of this Joseph, teaches anthropology magazine, at the University of California, Suad and Davis, Association Women's East

pology. Research She is a founder for Middle and of the East

in state of the self and most Lebanon. She is author tions recently of "Connectivity Among Families and Patriarchy Arab Class Working in Leb?


the Middle

Group in Anthro? exten? has published gender construe-

"Gender anon,"Ethos, inpress; and Relationally Among Arab Feminist Families in Lebanon," Studies, spoke in press. Joe Stork with her in early May.

sively on sectarianism, and and the family,

Middle East Report ? July-August 1993

does the idea of What questions raise civil society concerning gender? The Western construct of nation-state, which became the compulsory polit? ical form for the rest of the world, is based on citizens as detached from communities, as individuals. In fact? in the Arab world, the Third World, are and much of the West?persons deeply embedded in communities, in families, in ethnic, racial or other social groupings. The Western construct of citizen? that of a contract-making individual? implies a degree of detachment and autonomy that is not universal. The capacity to make contracts emerges from the fact that this individualized self is conceived of as a property owner, first of all as owner of himself. I use "him" consciously here. Why "himself"? The Western liberal notion of citizen construct. implies a masculinized Males were the property-owners. Carol Pateman argues that the contempo? rary state is in fact a fraternal patri? archy. In the discourse that estab? lished the philosophical basis of liberal bourgeois society, the idiom is that of brothers. The social contract is entered into by free men who consti? tute themselves as a civil fraternity. It's an association of autonomous, indi? vidualized, contract-making persons, and contract-making is possible only if you are a property owner, if you own yourself. The series of assertions that underlie this philosophical base are assertions of exclusion. Women and many minorities are not contract-mak? ing persons, because they are not prop? erty-owners. Civil society is a frater? nity, not a sorority, and not a family. the genderIf we move beyond of these para? bound language digms, and if women become more equal as property owners to men, what keeps the state masculine? Is this still a problem? In liberal feminist thought, with its Middle East Report ? July-August 1993

goal of integrating women into and not challenging the basic structure of the state, the problem starts to get resolved. Marxist feminists argue that this only resolves the problem for elite women! Class, race, patriarchy and other forms of exclusion are still oper? ating. But isn't that just saying that the is not inclusive integration Is it a critique of the enough? model of the state itself? no way that you could have inclusion without transform? enough ing the class-based structure of soci? ety. The very existence of classes is a demarcation of exclusion. Ultimately what gets reorganized and restruc? tured are class boundaries. If you're going to use inclusion as the avenue of resolving the problem, that can hap? pen only if class itself is challenged. There's It still strikes me as more Marxist than feminist, in that the locus of the problem is class. What's more to reconcile?class or difficult patriarchy? There are feminists who would argue that class and patriarchy are dual sys? of tems that operate autonomously each other; you have to fight them on different grounds. Others argue that they are woven into each other and your strategy of organizing has to take account of the fact that class already has patriarchy built into it. There isn't a single feminist answer as to the pri? mary source of oppression?gender, class, or race. we want to examine The question of the is: What has the imposition with its gendered nation-state, and civil of citizenship concepts meant in those countries society, where it has been imposed? There was patriarchy in the Arab world prior to colonization. What is interesting to investigate is the inter? sections of the pre-colonial and postcolonial patriarchy in the attempts to construct the contemporary nationstate. My sense is that there was much

greater fluidity to the patriarchy that existed in the Arab world in the 17th, 18th, 19th centuries. Judith Tucker's recent work on Nablus courts, deal? ing with issues such as custody and divorce and child support cases in the 18th and 19th century, indicate that women made use of the courts effec? tively and actively, and across class lines. Women were very assertive in claiming their rights within what might be considered a public domain in Palestine. There's interesting work from medieval Egypt up to the 19th century which shows that women were active property owners. Julia Clancy's work on colonial Algeria indi? cates that women were active in reli? gious movements, were looked up to and sought out as saintly figures. The point that comes out of all of this is that there was a lot more fluidity in the pre-colonial period than we had previously imagined in terms of gen? der hierarchy. of Contemporary representations the Arab world often depict more rigid exclusion gender hierarchies?greater of women from public domains, to an extreme degree in some states. Hisham Sharabi argues that what he calls neopatriarchy is a post-colonial phenom? enon: it's not that there wasn't patri? archy before, but contemporary pa? triarchy is a product of the intersec? tion between the colonial and indige? nous domains. Is this in any way similar to what's in other societies? happened There are some parallels?although we have to situate gender/state dy? namics culturally and historically in each society. I'm particularly inter? ested in comparing the Arab world to India and China, for a couple of rea? sons. One is that all three are areas with very long histories of state for? mation, and then periods of colonial control, and then periods of attempt? ed "modernization." In all three soci? eties, the literature seems to indicate a consolidation of gender domination for women in the contemporary peri? od: increasing control by men, fami? and the state. lies, communities, There's evidence that the contempo23

rary period in some ways has creat? ed new controls over women that were much more fluid in earlier periods. Is this owing to the gender char? acter of capitalism per se, or also to the reactions to capitalism? Both, and I think it's also related to the particular construct of the nationstate that these societies have attempt? ed to erect. But it's also citizen. a class construct of

Absolutely. Recall here Edward Said's argument in Orientalism that the East to the is feminized in relationship West. Many scholars subsequently argued that not only is the Orient fem? inized, but that the oppressed, the sub? ordinate, the minority is feminized. Hierarchy has tended to genderize in contemporary nation-states: those in the superordinate position are mas? culinized, and subordinates are fem? inized. So constructs of class and cit? have been imbued with izenship gendered meanings. And this is peculiarly modern?

communities were competitive with state authority. Women may at times feel the oppression of the patriarchy oftheir communities more directly than that of the state. Elsewhere, perhaps Iraq is an example, people have often experienced communities as a source of protection from a repressive state. Local women's movements will take dif? ferent forms as a result. My political stance is one ofcritical support?to sup? port local forms of resistance, but to engage in a critical dialogue based on the historical experiences of other coun? tries. But, I do not think the control of women by communities is independent of state control. That's part of the paradigm modernization. That's of

what many of these states, notably Iraq and Syria, were attempt? ing to do by undermining these com? munities in order to claim the control and the loyalties of their citizenry. not to We have to be careful romanticize the control that does level. or did exist at the communal for Yes, it's coercive, particularly women. It's not a question of preserv? ing these ethnic, religious, tribal com? munities, or of the state saving women from these communities. States and communities can be competitive or col? laborative forms of domination. These communities are organized through patriarchal idioms, morali? ties, and structures of domination. For women, in those states where com? munities are the primary vehicle through which they experience their membership in contemporary soci? eties, these relations are mediated through patriarchy. In societies in which the state is more keenly felt, state forms of patriarchy penetrate more effectively into local communi? ties. There are new, complex, shifting forms of gender domination. Insofar as the state is experienced as more repressive than the communities, then in women often secure themselves their communities, where they receive some protection from a repressive state. But to gain that protection they

The individual citizen, as an au? tonomous, contract-making self, is a peculiarly modern and Western dis? course, a discourse that's become hege? monic. It is important to look at what these notions of civil society and citi? zenship are based on in Western dis? course, and the problems created by their uncritical application to Third World societies. I was struck years ago by an article by Rola Sharara, a Lebanese feminist, in Khamsin, in which she argued that women in Lebanon, as in many Arab states, cannot feel the impact of the state in their lives. They feel the impact of their communities, and in particu? lar the men of their communities. I think Lebanon was an extreme exam2 pie ofthis, where citizenship was main? ly experienced through communities. That is, ethnic, religious, kin-based communities exerted considerable authority and claimed the loyalties of their members. In some societies, such 24

must submit to the control of the men of their community. Western liberal philosophers have advanced civil society as the solution to the problem of state authoritari? anism or despotism. If civil society con? sists of voluntary autonomous orga? nizations capable of resisting arbitrary exercises of state power, let's look at who or what are these voluntary orga? nizations. In contemporary societies, they would be professional associa? tions, unions, political action groups, chambers of commerce, even religious fraternities. All are in the "public domain." They are the kinds of asso? ciations nearly always associated with men. Civil society is already identified or defined in a site from which women are thought to be excluded?the pub? lic domain. And it's characterized by sets of associations that are linked with male activity. If you go back to how it is that this came to be, the construct of civil society assumes from the very beginning a split between public and It's based on an private domains. assumed three-way distinction be? tween that which is kin-based and nonvoluntary, that which is non-kinbased, public, and voluntary?civil that which is non-kin, society?and and semi-voluntary?the state. public, That definition of what constitutes civil society is based on a gendered dis? tinction between public and private domain. Men and male activity are asso? ciated with the public and women and female activity with the private. The civil society construct, a Western con? struct, is now being challenged in the West by feminists and people of color. Its uncritical application to Third World countries and the uncritical use of the relative existence of components of civil society as measures of "modernity" or progress are highly problematic. What does this mean the Arab world? in terms of

The distinction between what is pub? lic and what is private, and therefore the dichotomy that the concept of civil society rests upon, is even more prob? lematical in the Arab world than in the West. In many Third World coun? tries, Arab ones included, kinship and Middle East Report ? July-August 1993

community are crucial organizers of social life. I don't see state institutions or civil society operating independently of kin-based and communal relations. A person in a position of power in a gov? ernment office or a voluntary organ? ization brings with him or her the oblig? ations, networks and rights of kin and community, and acts accordingly. Those claims of kin and community are operating for people in those positions. The people themselves don't separate public and private. The boundaries between this tri? angulation of state, civil society, and kinship or private domain are highly fluid. People's commitments remain grounded in kin and community, and they carry those commitments with them, whether in the civil or state spheres. Men in Lebanon are no less identified with kinship, and therefore private communities and obligations, than are women. But it's patriarchal. What's crucial for understanding the gendering of these relationships is not the split between public and private, say, or between civil society and state, or civil society and the domestic, but how gender hierarchy operates. In Middle East Report ? July-August 1993

Lebanon patriarchy privileges males and elders, including elder women. Numerous other variables affect the eth? operation of patriarchy?class, nicity, region. What does this mean for the stance we take on these questions of civil society and human rights? Because men are very nested in famil? ial and highly patriarchal communi? ties, as nested as women, and insofar as states are often seen as repressive and external, it is in these communalbased relationships that both men and women find security. For many pro? gressive Muslims in the Middle East, gender issues are secondary; famil? ial bonds are seen as sources of sup? port and security against what's per? ceived as an even greater source of state. That isn't to oppression?the say that there aren't women and move? ments in the Middle East who argue that gender oppression is as virulent as class or colonialism. If one's rights are experienced as emerging from being part of these familial, ethnic, sectarian communi? ties to a greater degree than emerging from being citizens of a state, then you can see the problem for women,


these communities are high? The control of these ly patriarchal. communities over women's lives has in fact been reinforced by the state in many Middle Eastern states, with Tunisia and Turkey being partial exceptions. When the state intervenes active? ly to provide alternative arenas, at do? least in legal or administrative for women's participation in mains, society, it creates space for maneu? vering and negotiation and, over the long run, for mobilization. This sense of space is implicit in the argument for civil society. Some would argue that the com? of civil society work as ponents much to help the state exercise social control as to hinder it. I agree. We have assumed that the hegemonic discourse in the West actu? ally describes the empirical reality of the West. Then we say: what's wrong with these Third World societies is that they're not coming up to the stan? dard that in fact is not the reality even in the West. We have assumed dis? tinctions between state and civil soci? ety, between civil society and the pri? vate sphere, and between the state 25

and the private sphere. Both in the West and the Third World they're not so separate. The problem of exclusion of women from the state has been accentuated by the attempt to sepa? rate these domains. The attempts to separate state, civil society and kin? ship weds women to the private do? main and excludes them from the sphere of civil society and from the state. Saudi Arabia may be an extreme example of that. But that's a modern phenomenon. The whole argument about whether we have a weak state or a strong state, a weak society or a strong society, in a way is a specious argument, linked to an Orientalist perspective which sees other societies as seamless webs, whereas the West is articulated and differentiated. I don't see the West being as articulated and differenti? ated as the West presents itself to be. But formerly colonized societies to some extent have bought into the nation-state as the mode and vehicle of liberation. The contemporary exclusion of women not exclusively?the is in part?but outcome of this compulsory model of

nation-state, a model which has built into it the marginalization of females and female activity. The point I'm leading to is that peo? ple do not perceive themselves as hav? ing rights as a result of their being citizens of a state. They perceive them? selves as having rights because they are embedded in communities. And insofar as those communities are hier? archical and patriarchal, then the rights that they perceive will be orga? nized around those hierarchical and patriarchal structures of domination. When we speak of human rights, we assume that we all know what we mean by that term. But we've univer? salized human rights by glossing over the diversity in the ways in which rights are understood. Our construct of rights was premised on the construct of the autonomous, detached, contractand mas? making, individualized culinized person that emerged out of liberal bourgeois thought. We don't want to dismiss human constructs, as rights as bourgeois if they don't matter. What I'm struggling to develop is a construct of rights, personal rights,

human rights, that is not embedded in a specific construct of personhood. I don't have the answer to that now. The problem of the construct of human rights is very linked to this concept of the individualized citizen. If we have a construct of citizen that is wedded to a particular concept of self, it allows us to dismiss the rights of persons who don't share that sense of self. The way we construct the notion of civil soci? ety, and the way we construct the notion of a nation-state?when you break out of those constructs, it not only allows for the possibility of the inclusion of women and other exclud? ed groups, but it shows us that the ways in which men and women oper? ate, act out their lives, maneuver and negotiate are not inherently so funda? mentally different from each other. We constructed a difference, which insofar as it became compulsory, became internalized. Gender differ? ence is historically and culturally con? structed and reproduced through com? plex moralities, idioms and structures of power. Feminist discourse attempts to destabilize the hegemony of these constructs and by so doing create spaces for experiments in alternate ? forms of relationships.




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Middle East Report ? July-August 1993