American Occidentalism and the Agential Muslim Woman


Allison, Katherine. 2013. “American Occidentalism and the Agential Muslim Woman.” Review of International Studies 39 (3): 665–84.

Author: Katherine Allison


Through the War on Terror the United States developed a seemingly enlightened understanding of Muslim women. In contrast to Orientalised representations of Muslim women's passivity and victimisation within brutal Islamic cultures these emerging representations posit Muslim women in terms of their modernity and liberation. The emergence of this new Muslim woman illuminates an attempt to secure an Occidental self through the negotiation of conflicting impulses towards Islam. Islam is recognised as the repository from which the US enemy other emerges yet the WoT also reflects a particular desire for a cosmopolitan inclusivity. The presence of the Muslim woman acts to assuage these tensions. Her oppression confirms the barbarity of the enemy yet the combination of her intrinsic agency and religiosity posits her as an acceptable Islamic other whose presence confirms the pluralistic tolerance of the US and the universal validity of its project.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Feminisms, Gender, Women, Femininity/ies Regions: Asia, Middle East, South Asia Countries: Afghanistan

Year: 2012

© 2023 CONSORTIUM ON GENDER, SECURITY & HUMAN RIGHTSLEGAL STATEMENT All photographs used on this site, and any materials posted on it, are the property of their respective owners, and are used by permission. Photographs: The images used on the site may not be downloaded, used, or reproduced in any way without the permission of the owner of the image. Materials: Visitors to the site are welcome to peruse the materials posted for their own research or for educational purposes. These materials, whether the property of the Consortium or of another, may only be reproduced with the permission of the owner of the material. This website contains copyrighted materials. The Consortium believes that any use of copyrighted material on this site is both permissive and in accordance with the Fair Use doctrine of 17 U.S.C. § 107. If, however, you believe that your intellectual property rights have been violated, please contact the Consortium at