Neither Emancipation Nor Exclusion: Rethinking Politics of Piety Through Ladies’ Own Gazette

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Ladies’ Own Gazette, Issue 1, p.3-4 (1895)

Article accepted for publication at Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society.

Abstract

In this article, I turn to a late nineteenth century Ottoman-Muslim women’s periodical, Hanımlara Mahsus Gazete(Ladies’ Own Gazette) to broaden the scope of transnational feminist genealogies of women’s piety, agency, and political subjectivity.I argue that the writers and editors of the gazette,who were mostly Ottoman-Muslim women, illustrate the subject position of a “non-pious believer.” This subject position encapsulates the simultaneously ethical and political imperatives of a subjectivity that is neither emancipatory nor exclusionary for women. Situating the gazette in its local and transnational historical context, I examine a series of articles that discuss women’s public schooling that merge traditional demands of Ottoman society from Muslim women with demands for their public education. These articles illustrate an approach to religion and religiosity that prioritizes women’s public, collective, and political engagement, which requires a rethinking of the conceptual relationship between political action and religious belief.  In dialogue with contemporary scholarship on women’s piety and agency, I show how Ottoman-Muslim women’s rediscovery and reevaluation of their own religion was articulated as a fundamental necessity for crafting a new kind of public space, one in which women are recognized as rightful members of the politico-religious community. While this may seem like a merely strategic, or instrumental, use of religion, what distinguishes this periodical’s turn to Islam is its contributors’ simultaneous commitment to following religious precepts and to unearthing these precepts’ potential for enabling women’s inclusion in the life of the politico-religious community.

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