Feminism, democracy, and empire: Islam and the war on terror


Saba Mahmood
Translation in Greek by Ourania Tsiakalou




The complicated role European feminism played in legitimating and extending colonial rule in vast regions of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East has been extensively documented and well-argued for some time now. For many of us raised in this critical tradition, it is therefore surprising to witness the older colonialist discourse on women being reenacted in new genres of feminist literature today, with the explicit aim of justifying the U.S. war on terror in the Muslim world. It seems at times a thankless task to unravel yet again the spurious logic through which Western imperial power seeks to justify its geopolitical domination by posing as the “liberator” of indigenous women from native patriarchal cultures. It would seem that this ideologically necessary but intellectually tedious task requires little imagination beyond repositioning the truths of the earlier scholarship on Algeria, Egypt, Indonesia, and India that has copiously and rigorously laid bare the implicated histories of feminism and empire.


Saba Mahmood (February 3, 1961 – March 10, 2018), professor of anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, worked on the politics in postcolonial societies. She focused on sovereignty, subject formation, law and gender, questioning the distinction between freedom and unfreedom, religiosity and secularity and agency and submission.

Ourania Tsiakalou is a translator who lives and works in Athens. She studied English Literature, Translation and Translation Studies at the University of Athens. She mainly focuses on the translation of theory, anthropology and ethnography. She has also been teaching English since 2008.