Lila Abu-Lughod

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Lila Abu-Lughod
Born 1952
Nationality USA
Alma mater Carleton College
Harvard University
Occupation Scholar
Employer Columbia University
Known for Anthropology, Women's and Gender Studies

Lila Abu-Lughod (born 1952) is an American Palestinian who is professor of Anthropology and Women's and Gender Studies at Columbia University in New York City. A specialist of the Arab world, her seven books, most based on long term ethnographic research, cover topics from sentiment and poetry to nationalism and media, from gender politics to the politics of memory.


Lila Abu-Lughod is the daughter of the prominent Palestinian academic Ibrahim Abu-Lughod and of Janet L. Abu-Lughod, née Lippman, a leading American urban sociologist.[1] She graduated from Carleton College in 1974, and obtained her PhD from Harvard University in 1984. Carleton College awarded her an honorary doctorate in 2006.

Abu-Lughod has taught at Williams College, Princeton University, and New York University. She first became known for her research on the Bedouin from the Awlad 'Ali tribe in Egypt. Her work is strongly ethnographic and has focused on three broad issues: the relationship between cultural forms and power; the politics of knowledge and representation; and the dynamics of gender and the question of women’s rights in the Middle East. Her first book, Veiled Sentiments, is about the politics of sentiment and cultural expression in a Bedouin community in Egypt. It is best known for its arguments about the complexity of culture. An article from the book received the Stirling Award for Contributions to Psychological Anthropology. Her second book, based on fieldwork in the same community is framed as a feminist ethnography. It uses individual's stories to make an argument for “writing against culture.” It received the Victor Turner Award. Her third ethnography, Dramas of Nationhood: The Politics of Television in Egypt, is a media ethnography that contributes to the anthropological study of nations and nationalism. It explores the tensions between the social inequalities that bedevil nations and the cultural forms, like television soap operas, that try to address them.

In 2001, she delivered the Lewis Henry Morgan Lecture at the University of Rochester, considered by many to be the most important annual lecture series in the field of anthropology.[2] She was named a Carnegie Scholar in 2007 to research the topic: "Do Muslim Women Have Rights? The Ethics and Politics of Muslim Women's Rights in an International Field." She was inspired to pursue this research after writing an article that has been much reprinted. It is titled "Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving?" She has held research fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, Fulbright, and the Mellon Foundation, among others.

Abu-Lughod is a supporter of the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement. She is married to Timothy Mitchell.

Do Muslim Women Need Saving?[edit]

Abu-Lughod's scholarly work on the image of Muslim women in western society is an important text for post-9/11 discussions on the Middle East, Islam, women's rights, and media. Specifically, Abu-Lughod questions whether or not western ideas of the "abused" Muslim women who need to be saved are correct.[3] She concludes that Muslim women, like women of other faiths and backgrounds, need to be viewed within their own historical, social, and ideological contexts.[4] Furthermore, "saving" these women plays into racist ideas which see Muslim societies as barbaric. Religion is not the main factor in global inequality but is due to a combination of poverty and governmental abuses coupled with global tensions.[3]

After 9/11, Laura Bush, the First Lady of the United States, invoked the image of the abused Muslim women, which became a trope in discussions about Middle-East politics.[5] Like Abu-Lughod, many scholars pointed to this stereotype.[6][7] Abu-Lughod's article and subsequent book on the topic have been compared to Edward Said and Orientalism.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sherene Seikaly (Feb 13, 2014). "Commemorating Janet Abu-Lughod". Jadaliyya. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b "Do Muslim Women Need Saving? — Lila Abu-Lughod | Harvard University Press". Retrieved 2014-12-02. 
  4. ^ "JSTOR: An Error Occurred Setting Your User Cookie". JSTOR 3567256. 
  5. ^ "Laura Bush Addresses State of Afghan Women - Los Angeles Times". Retrieved 2014-12-02. 
  6. ^ "Global Media Journal". Archived from the original on 2015-01-24. Retrieved 2014-12-02. 
  7. ^ University, Y.Y.H.P.H.I.C.M.R.G.; Seminary, J.I.S.P.I.S.H.T.; California, S.B.K.M.M.A.P.L.S.U. (2006). Muslim Women in America : The Challenge of Islamic Identity Today: The Challenge of Islamic Identity Today. Oxford University Press, USA. ISBN 9780198039556. Retrieved 2014-12-02. 

Further reading[edit]