Muslim and Jewish women

Historical and cultural contexts

Authored by: Ibtissam Bouachrine , Judith L. Goldstein

The Routledge Handbook of Muslim–Jewish Relations

Print publication date:  June  2016
Online publication date:  June  2016

Print ISBN: 9780415645164
eBook ISBN: 9781315675787
Adobe ISBN: 9781317383215


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For centuries, Jewish and Muslim women in al-Andalus, North Africa, and the Middle East have shared a language, cultural traditions (dress codes, most food, modes of celebration, poetry, and music), professions, and spaces. Jewish and Muslim women of the elite enjoyed privileges that came with wealth and power, including education, while the many more numerous poorer women made a living as healers, mourners, wool spinners, and other professions practiced by both Jewish and Muslim women. However, scholarship about women in Muslim-majority lands has seldom analyzed together both the Muslim women and the non-Muslim women for whom the region was also home. This chapter on Jewish and Muslim women in al-Andalus, North Africa, and the Middle East calls for a methodological shift in the study of women in the region by incorporating the shared and divergent cultural themes that have shaped their lives and the opportunities available to them. Taken together, the two sections that follow highlight the common lenses through which Muslim and Jewish women have been imagined and represented in the past and present, exploring Jewish and Muslim women as both the objects and subjects of representation. Both parts of this chapter show how Jewish and Muslim women from different socioeconomic backgrounds have deployed various cultural and artistic genres to negotiate multiple hierarchies.

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