Ten questions about anthropology, feminism, Middle East politics, and publics: Interview with Lila Abu-Lughod

Sindre Bangstad in American Ethnologist:

ScreenHunter_2403 Nov. 27 21.52On the occasion of the publication of Columbia University anthropologist Lila Abu-Lughod’s article, “The Cross-Publics of Ethnography: The Case of “the Muslim woman,’” in the November 2016 issue of the journal, we have invited Norwegian anthropologist Sindre Bangstad to interview Abu-Lughod on fundamental issues underlying her work as a feminist anthropologist, a public intellectual, and an ethnographer of the Middle East and Islamophobia. This year also marks the 30th anniversary of the publication of Abu-Lughod’s landmark ethnography Veiled Sentiments, which has inspired an entire generation of scholars and students to rethink their understanding of gender, power, and poetics. I thank Lila and Sindre for sharing their conversation with the readership of the journal. —Niko Besnier, editor

Sindre Bangstad (SB): You and I met in 2014 because we had both turned, as anthropologists, to address a disturbing public issue: Islamophobia. This opened us up to forms of hostility that our earlier ethnographic work in Muslim communities, yours in Egypt and mine in South Africa, had not. In your article in the November issue of AE, “The Cross-Publics of Public Ethnography,” you consider what anthropologists can bring to contentious public debates. You confess that your most recent book, Do Muslim Women Need Saving? took you out of the comfort zone of our discipline. I’d like to talk with you about the meaning of this transition to what I’ve explored as public anthropology in a series of interviews in my forthcoming Anthropology of Our Times: An Edited Anthology in Public Anthropology. You prefer to call it public ethnography, following Didier Fassin. I’d like to talk about your early work first.

More here. [Thanks to Nadia Guessous.]