The very recent phenomenon called Islamic feminism receives quite a lot of attention from academia and media alike. Although it is basically a discourse whose strategy and praxis is primarily script related, there seems to be an overt tendency to equate Islamic feminism with an ideology for a transnational social or political movement. As a perceived singular movement, Islamic feminism is often distinguished from two other supposedly singular movements, namely “Muslim feminism” and “Islamist feminism.” With regard to India, however, these ideal types don’t seem to be very helpful as analytical categories, as the growing influence and reference to Islamic feminism there simply cannot be associated with one distinct group of proponents or one movement exclusively. Therefore, I will argue here that a clear distinction should rather be made between Islamic feminism as a discursive movement, and the distinct local, national or transnational social and political movements that are all increasingly referring to this discourse. In India, these movements in many cases precede the emergence of Islamic feminism in the 1990s. So by making this distinction, the focus of analysis can be shifted from the repeated finding of ideological divisions and frictions within a supposedly singular Islamic feminist movement to the focus on the enormous potential that this discourse obviously has for Muslim women’s agency in general as well as for the emergence of new female subjectivities in India (and elsewhere) which in turn seem to challenge and change secular-national gender discourses.

Author Biography

Nadja-Christina Schneider is a Junior Professor for Mediality and Intermediality in Asian and African Societies at Humboldt University Berlin, Germany. Her areas of research include media systems in South Asia; convergence/intermediality and new media forms; processes of medialisation; transcultural communication and Islam in India. One of her current research projects focuses on the translocal and local dynamics of Islamic feminism in India.