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In Search of Islamic Feminism

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In Search of Islamic Feminism
One Woman's Global Journey. By Elizabeth Warnock Fernea
(Anchor: 1998. Pg. 464.) ISBN: 0385488580.

Reviewed by Angela Evans - April 5, 2001

Elizabeth Warnock Fernea, B.J., is a well known researcher and teacher whose main academic focus is on women and gender issues. Her writings cover a wide range of topics, but primarily she concentrates on Middle Eastern and Islamic women's issues. She has also worked on several films based upon her research.

In Search of Islamic Feminism: One Woman's Global Journey is another in Fernea's long list of books on Islamic women. For this study she traveled around the world, speaking with women about their roles within Islam, the changes that have occurred over the last few years, their thoughts on feminism, and what they expect, and hope for, for the future.

This is a wide ranging book. While researching the book she interviewed Islamic women in Uzbekistan, Morocco, Kuwait, Turkey, Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Palestine, and the United States. On tape, the writing came across more as an on going dialogue, rather than as a strict text. At times you could hear Fernea talking with her interviewees, as the book apparently contains a great deal of straight transcriptions of the interviews. At other times you feel as if you are sitting at a table with Fernea and she is telling you, personally, about her adventures while you both sip cups of tea. Overall this book offers an intriguing glimpse into the lives of some, mostly upper class, Islamic women. It also points out the vast differences that exist between the women, primarily based upon what country they live in and not upon their faith.

The book is easy to follow, and there is little if any 'scholarly' jargon in the book. As well, rather than sounding like a textbook, which I feared it might actually be, In Search of Islamic Feminism comes across more as a personal journal. A journal that describes Fernea's two-year journey, the people she met along the way, and her impressions about their lives and the countries in which she traveled.

Related Reviews:

A History of the Arab Peoples, By Albert Hourain.
This book offers a sweeping glimpse of Arab culture and society, presented within an historical framework that spans almost thirteen centuries.

A History of The Middle East,By Peter Mansfield.
This work provides a sweeping survey of Middle Eastern history from the time of Napoleon's invasion of Egypt, in 1798, until the start of the Gulf War in the 1990's.

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