There are many geographic and historical examples of Muslim women leaders, yet questions about women’s ability to lead and the kinds of leadership women can assume are still a part of scholarly and public debates among Muslims. In this article, based on two years of ethnographic fieldwork in the Ferghana Valley (Uzbekistan), I provide examples of Muslim women’s leadership and argue that in order to fully understand women’s leadership we need to question the assumption that men and women desire the same forms of leadership. A desire for leadership is not intrinsic to women (or humans in general) but is socio-historically specific. Approaching critically some existing assumptions about women’s leadership, I identify and provide examples of different, equally important, forms of leadership that a specific socio-historical context has engendered.

Author Biography

Svetlana Peshkova is an Assistant Professor in Anthropology (Department of Anthropology, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH). As a socio-cultural anthropologist and a scholar of Islam she is interested in lives of Muslims in post-Soviet Central Asia; gender dynamics; Islamic transnational movements, and ethnographic filmmaking. Svetlana published articles about social movements, reproductive health, cultural models, and the use of space in Islamic renewal. She is currently writing a book manuscript about Muslim women religious leaders in the Ferghana Valley (Uzbekistan).