Faith and Feminism in Pakistan: Afiya Zia and Gayatri Spivak in conversation

Afiya Zia in Conversation with Gayatri C. Spivak

Moderated by Sadia Abbas

February 25, 2013 from 7-9 pm

Proshansky Auditotorium, CUNY Graduate Center

Free and open to the public


Afiya Zia

Under the canvas of the “War on Terror”, the postcolonial themes of violent and hotly contested religio-nationalism have been revisited in Pakistan over the last decade. These have had direct and specific implications for women and minorities. This discussion by Afiya Shehrbano Zia traces the backlash against the liberal and/or secular women’s movement as betrayers of the Muslim (male) cause. It will also discuss the misguided prescription of those academic and developmental projects that advocate the instrumentalisation of Islam as an appropriate and ‘authentic’ approach in Muslim contexts.

Afiya S. Zia is an independent scholar and feminist activist. She has been part of pro-democracy activism in Pakistan , and an active member of Women’s Action Forum, which directly challenged Gen Zia ul Haq’s religious state.  Between 1993 – 1997 she worked in the non-governmental sector on women and development projects and wrote several papers for national and international forums and edited a series of books on women’s issues, including,  Unveiling the Issues; Locating the Self. Based in Karachi, Afiya teaches sociology to college students and writes regular columns for the newspapers. Afiya Zia is a founding member of an academic study group in Karachi; and a commentator on socio-political issues on several TV channels. She is the author of Sex Crime in the Islamic Context; Rape, Class and  Gender in Pakistan; ASR, 1994), Watching Them Watching Us, ASR, 1997, ‘The Reinvention of Feminism in Pakistan’  in Feminist Review, Issue 91, South Asian Feminisms: Negotiating New Terrain’, Palgrave, Macmillan, UK, ‘Challenges to Secular Feminism in Pakistan’, Occasional paper series by University of Cambridge. Her current research in progress focuses on the challenges to secular feminism in Pakistan as the women’s movement confronts growing conservatism and Islamic militancy.


Gayatri Spivak, University Professor at Columbia and a founding member of the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society at Columbia University. She is a seminal author of subaltern studies. Among her numerous books are In Other Worlds: Essays in Cultural Politics (1987; Routledge Classic 2002) and A Critique of Postcolonial Reason: Towards a History of the Vanishing Present (1999).


Sadia Abbas is Assistant Professor of English and Women’s Studies at Rutgers University. Her current work engages with the global circulation of Islamism, especially in its relation with left politics, Pakistani laws between imperialism and the military, and aesthetic responses to Islamism. She is  working on a book titled, At Freedom’s Limit: Islam and the Postcolonial Predicament.


Co-sponsored by the South Asia Solidarity Initiative


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