Ayesha Chaudhry

Associate Professor

Relevant Degree Programs

 
 

Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - Nov 2019)
In Hajar's footsteps : a de-colonial and islamic ethic of care (2020)

This dissertation radically reimagines the boundaries of political theory as a practice and as a tradition in three ways. First, I surface the ableist and colonial paradigm of recognition that shapes the study of Islam and the “Muslim Other” in comparative political theory and care ethics. The colonial legacy of political theory lives on within the textual sensibilities of political theorists, inherited from white-orientated reading practices, epistemic white privilege, and matricide as an epistemological orientation. Refusing to (un)learn how colonial histories of sense-contact have shaped our practices of reading and writing compromises the witnessing capacities of political theorists. In turn, we become complicit in authoring and authorizing colonial world-building practices. Second, I trace how white-orientated and heteropatriarchal conceptions of citizenship travel through the inheritance of the nation-state. Imperial readings of disability, (inter)dependency and care, both within and outside the Islamic tradition, render Muslim women and disabled Muslims as misfits in our knowledge relations. Through auto-ethnography I argue care-based modes of knowing Islam are needed to theorize accessibility because 1) disabled Muslims and care-givers remain visible only through frames of charity or tragedy; 2) situations of dependency care render one ontologically and epistemically incapable of sensing and knowing the Islamic; 3) interpretive authority is sanctioned by legal scholars, Muslim men, or white and secular scholars; and 4) narratives of informal care-giving, care-based epistemologies of Islam and the epistemic authority of disabled Muslims and Muslim women are denigrated within the ecology of Islamic knowledges. I design various care-based and intersectional Islamic technologies by which (non)Muslims can harness care as a critical sensibility that orients how we read, write and think about what is “Islamic”, whose bodies we identify as interpretive authorities, and which types of knowledge we authorize as “Islam.” Third, I turn away from imagining moral epistemologies of care to focus on the praxis behind care-based epistemologies of Islam and its vast potential for coalitional politics and de-colonial movement building. By de-centering whiteness, I re-conceive what it means to be a Muslim on Turtle Island and practice Islam in a settler-colonial society.

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Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2018)
Engendering unification : family law and women's legal subjectivity in Southern Yemen (2017)

This thesis examines the shifts in Family Law and the production of ‘women’ as legal subjects in the context of the unification of North and South Yemen in the 1990s. Two legal codes form the core of this research, the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen’s (PDRY, ‘South Yemen’) pre-unification Family Law of 1974, and the unified Republic of Yemen’s (ROY) Personal Status Law of 1992. The shift from the PDRY Family Law to the ROY Personal Status Law redefined women’s place in the family and Yemeni society writ large through the deployment of Family Law as a key mechanism for social intervention in order to produce and regulate legible legal subjects. This study interrogates the production of women as legal subjects through analysis of the institutions of marriage and divorce, viewing them as mechanisms to delineate boundaries of action that define the Yemeni woman’s place and role in the nation-state. In the PDRY’s case, this was undertaken through the construction of the woman as a “mother” and “worker” that is assigned reproductive and productive duties, and the establishment of the nuclear family as a self-contained entity that operates as the “cornerstone” of society. Determinations of the woman’s ‘place’ in the PDRY nation-state revolved around discourses of modernity and secularism that nevertheless utilized the Islamic legal tradition in reformative and innovative ways that claimed to foreground gender equality while maintaining patriarchal power relations. I argue that this locked women into an altered state of gender inequity that was marked by a post-colonial and Marxist driven nationalism. On the other hand, the Personal Status Law of the unified ROY, which rooted itself in Shari’a and the Islamic legal tradition, defined and restricted the ‘woman’ as a legal subject through the institution of guardianship and the discourse of al’eshra al-ḥesna (good companionship) that established a marital relationship and familial structure that was inherently inequitable. Thus, “the woman” as subject becomes a critical symbol onto which the two nation-states cast visions of themselves, and the manner through which they laid claim to the Islamic legal tradition.

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