Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving?

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Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving? Anthropological Reflections on Cultural Relativism and Its Others Author(s): Lila Abu-Lughod Reviewed work(s): Source: American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 104, No. 3 (Sep., 2002), pp. 783-790 Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of the American Anthropological Association Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3567256 . Accessed: 18/01/2012 15:55 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.

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LILA ABU-LUGHOD

EthicsForum: September 11 and Ethnographic Responsibility

Really Reflections Anthropological
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the "War Terrorism," whether on This the ABSTRACT article devoted asking explores ethicsof the current anthropology, discipline withcultural can us on and made to understanding dealing difference, provide withcritical purchase thejustifications forAmerican inAfghanistan terms liberating, saving, in of or women.Ilookfirst the dangers reifying at of in intervention culture, Afghan apparent icons the woman messy over historical political and to neat thetendencies plaster cultural like Muslim attention Then, dynamics. calling with discourses equality, on and colonial missionary and of rhetoric Muslim on to the resonances contemporary freedom, rights earlier a serious of differences Iarguethatwe needto develop, womeninthe world-as products of instead, women, appreciation among and of Iarguethat of structured desires. different circumstances, manifestations differently histories, Further, expressions different others the superiorityimplies the violences wouldentail) might it and it we than to better think terms in rather seeking "save" of (with as to transformation (2)considering ownlarger with that and our (1)working theminsituations we recognize always subject historical of that of in I to the injustice arepowerful shapers theworlds which findthemselves.develop they responsibilitiesaddress forms global about limits "cultural the of relativism" a consideration the burqa the many of and of of thesearguments through meanings veilmany Muslim world. relativism, women,Afghanistan freedom, war, colonialism] cultural globalinjustice, [Keywords: inginthe Muslim

Terrorism,"a war that justifies itself by purporting to liberate, or save, Afghan women? Does anthropology have anything to offer in our search for a viable position to take regardingthis rationale for war? I was led to pose the question of my title in partbecause of the way I personally experiencedthe response to the U.S. war in Afghanistan. Like many colleagues whose work has focused on women and gender in the Middle East,I was deluged with invitations to speak-not just on news programs but also to various departmentsat colleges and universities, especiallywomen's studiesprograms.Why did this not please me, a scholarwho has devoted more than 20 years of her life to this subject and who has some complicated personal connection to this identity? Here was an opportunity to spread the word, disseminate my knowledge, and correctmisunderstandings. The urgent search for knowledge about our sister "women of cover"(as PresidentGeorgeBush so marvelously called them) is laudable and when it comes from women's AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST 104(3):783-790.

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