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Transnational Feminism and “Local” Realities: The Imperiled Muslim Woman and the Production of (In)Justice

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This essay explores the tensions and disjunctures between transnational principles of gender justice and the highly contextualized desires of women who seek the services of legal aid organizations in rural Bangladesh. More specifically, it looks at the shalish, or local village tribunal in the context of efforts to restructure the shalish to make it more “democratic and gender-friendly.” On the basis of a close reading of several case studies, this essay shows how feminist conceptions of rights can sometimes founder in the face of women’s actual desires and expectations. The paper argues for rethinking notions of agency that conceive of individuals as pre-cultural subjects in favor of a framework in which all selves are relational and agency is produced in relation to specific cultural, political and economic logics.

Affiliations: 1: South Asia Institute, Columbia University New York University, Email:


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