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Hamzić, Vanja (2024) 'Law.' In: Lake, Jessica and Cramer, Lorinda, (eds.), A Cultural History of Gender, 1750-1950. London: Bloomsbury. (Forthcoming)

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The present chapter seeks to provide a broad overview of some of the main directions of research in critical scholarship on law and gender in the high time of exploitation colonialism. It does not focus on settler colonial societies, nor on the Iberian or Dutch and Belgian colonial projects, with the British and French legal and cultural interventions being its primary concern. However, as these global interventions necessarily involved other important actors, I also endeavour to show how, for instance, German natural law theorists joined the other Enlightenment sciences of the human to justify colonial extraction and the new regimes of hierarchical personhood, or how gender nonconforming individuals in the metropole as well as gender diverse communities in the colonies—such as South Asian hijṛē—were affected by the legal changes aimed at curtailing would-be sexual and gender transgressions, by making them relatable and mutually reinforcing in the court of law. Colonial law was often imposed to cement the existing and already entrenched processes of economic and cultural intervention. Thus, the chapter demonstrates how colonial and Orientalist projections of Muslim ostensibly ‘lax’ sexual and gender mores influenced the developments relative to gender and sexuality in Islamic law and, more broadly, Muslim discourses on classical Arabic literature and society. And, in the case of French West Africa, I show how an extractivist gender-binary logic was employed by eighteenth-century French enslavers in Senegambia, affecting both the enslaved shipped across the Middle Passage as well as the remaining local populations—with the example of gender-diverse artisanal castes, known in the Mande languages as ɲamakalaw. Finally, I zoom in on tell-tale fin-de-siècle examples of feminist resistance, including the early inroads of Islamic feminism, which paved the way for some of the paradigmatic legal changes in the twentieth century. I maintain that the colonial difference—including that based on a patriarchal, hierarchical understanding of gender—was systemically built into law and society between the 1750s and 1950s; at the same time, multifarious resistance to these colonial designs around the world ensured that they be challenged and eventually disrupted, particularly via heterogeneous formations of transnational feminist solidarity.

Item Type: Book Chapters
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of Law
Departments and Subunits > Interdisciplinary Studies > Centre for Gender Studies
Date Deposited: 20 Sep 2023 13:10

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