Teaching About Women and Islam in North Africa: Integrating Postcolonial Feminist Theory in the Classroom



Abstract: Using postcolonial feminist theory, the researcher attempts in this article to redefine the interpretive framework through which courses on Islam and North African women are being taught in American undergraduate classes. Several conceptual limitations have been identified: inadequate knowledge of the geography and history of North Africa; the discursive dichotomy between East and West; the production of the Muslim woman as a single category; the tendency to de-historicize Islam and Eastern cultures in general into unchanging and closed systems of religious practices and beliefs; the uncritical adoption of Islamic exegesis as an explanatory prism to understand all the woes of the Islamic world; and the cultural essentialism underlying the discourse of multiculturalism in American textbooks. To each one of these limitations, the author proposes alternative teaching strategies such as the historicization of all discourses on Muslim women; inclusion of the scholarship of Maghrebian women scholars in the classroom; role-playing; cross-cultural comparisons; and the integration of medieval maps and Renaissance drawings as well as audiovisual materials produced in North Africa and the Middle East ranging from political cartoons and commercials to youth programs like “Star Academy.”