In recent years, the figure of the Muslim Woman has loomed large over mainstream feminist debate in France. Cast alternately as a Frenchwoman-in-the-making or a veiled threat, the Muslim Woman has become emblematic of France’s relationship to those identified as its cultural others. But throughout these debates, and in spite of their scale and passion, one view has been glaringly absent: the view of French Muslim women themselves. Drawing on sociological, polemical and literary writings, this thoughtful and wide-ranging study examines the unacknowledged colonial roots of French feminist discourses on Islam and femininity, before bringing to light examples of French Muslim women’s writing and activism that suggest alternative ways of being both French and a feminist.
Anna Kemp is a Junior Research Fellow in French at The Queen’s College Oxford.