November 5, 2009
Constructing Proper Faith in a Girls' High School in Jordan
The power to interpret religious knowledge and define the terms of religious propriety is contested in many countries throughout the Muslim world today. Yet beyond analysis of curricular content, very little scholarly attention has been focused on the role of schools in such contests. This event
addressed struggles surrounding moral authority through an ethnographic exploration of religious teaching and practice in a girls' secondary school in Jordan. It examined both the formal or official religious curriculum, as well as the unofficial religious educational efforts underway in school. It also provided a glimpse of the daily struggles between text, teacher, and students to define proper Islamic mores for women in Jordan today. Outside the formal and intended curriculum there are a myriad of ways and spaces in the classroom, prayer room, school yard, and teachers' room within which actors in school are engaged in efforts to teach each other about religion, religious practices, and living as pious Muslim women. Competing visions of Islamic orthodoxy come to the fore in schools in unique ways and schools provide a space and new tools for negotiating the ensuing tensions.
This event was part of the Anthropology of Religion and Gender Series featuring Fida Adely, Lisa Hajjar, and Riv-Ellen Prell, co-sponsored by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and Georgetown's Department of Anthropology.
Fida J. Adely is Assistant Professor and the Clovis and Hala Salaam Maksoud Chair in Arab Studies at the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, positions she has held since fall 2007. She received her PhD in Comparative Education and Anthropology from Columbia University/Teachers College and her master's degree from Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs. Her most recent research has focused on schools, particularly secondary schooling for girls in Jordan. This work examines the role of schools as both state institutions and critical social spaces for young women in their struggles to define and make sense of national, religious, and gendered identities in Jordan today. Her research interests also include women and development, women and work, gender and education, civic education, and development aid to the Middle East and North Africa.