Lila Abu-Lughod

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Lila Abu-Lughod
NationalityPalestinian American
Known forAnthropology, Women's and Gender Studies
Parent(s)Ibrahim Abu-Lughod (father)
Janet L. Abu-Lughod (mother)
Academic background
Alma materCarleton College (BA, 1974)
Harvard University (PhD, 1984)
Academic work
InstitutionsWilliams College
Princeton University
New York University
Columbia University

Lila Abu-Lughod (Arabic: ليلى أبو لغد) (born 1952) is a Palestinian-American anthropologist. She is the Joseph L. Buttenweiser Professor of Social Science in the Department of Anthropology at Columbia University in New York City. She specializes in ethnographic research in the Arab world, and her seven books cover topics including sentiment and poetry, nationalism and media, gender politics and the politics of memory.

Early life and education[edit]

Abu-Lughod's father was the prominent Palestinian academic Ibrahim Abu-Lughod. Her mother, Janet L. Abu-Lughod, née Lippman, was a leading American urban sociologist of Jewish background.[1][2] She graduated from Carleton College in 1974, and obtained her PhD from Harvard University in 1984.[3]


Abu-Lughod's body of work is grounded in long-term ethnographic research in Egypt, and is especially concerned with the intersections of culture and power, as well as gender and women's rights in the Middle East.[4]

Between the late 1970s and the mid-1980s, while she was still a graduate student, Abu-Lughod spent time living with the Bedouin Awlad 'Ali tribe in Egypt.[3] She stayed with the head of the community, and lived in his household alongside his large family for a cumulative two years.[5] Her first two books, Veiled Sentiments: Honor and Poetry in a Bedouin Society and Writing Women's Worlds, are based on this fieldwork. Both books draw on her experiences living with the Bedouin women and her research into their poetry and storytelling.[3] She explores the way that ghinnawas, songs in a poetic form that she compares to haiku and the blues, express the cultural "patterning" of the society, especially with regard to the relations between women and men.[5] Abu-Lughod has described a reading group that she attended while teaching at Williams College – its other members included Catharine A. MacKinnon, Adrienne Rich, and Wendy Brown – as a formative engagement with the field of women's studies and a major influence on these early books.[6]

Abu-Lughod spent time as a scholar at the Institute for Advanced Study, with Judith Butler, Evelyn Fox Keller, and Donna Haraway. She also taught at New York University, where she worked on a project, funded by a Ford Foundation grant, intended to promote a more international focus in women's studies.[6]

Her 2013 book, Do Muslim Women Need Saving? investigates the image of Muslim women in Western society. It is based on her 2002 article of the same name, published in American Anthropologist.[7] The text examines post-9/11 discussions on the Middle East, Islam, women's rights, and media. Abu-Lughod gathers examples of the Western narrative of the "abused" Muslim women who need to be saved.[8] Abu-Lughod further explains how the narrative of saving Muslim women has been used as a way to justify military interventions in Muslim countries. She deftly questions the motives of feminists who feel that Muslim women should be saved from the Taliban all the while injustices occur in their own countries. She argues that Muslim women, like women of other faiths and backgrounds, need to be viewed within their own historical, social, and ideological contexts.[9] Abu-Lughod's article and subsequent book on the topic have been compared to Edward Said and Orientalism [citation needed].

Abu-Lughod serves on the advisory boards of multiple academic journals, including Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society[10] and Diaspora: A Journal of Transnational Studies.[11]

Awards and honors[edit]

In 2001, Abu-Lughod 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.[12] 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 has held research fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Guggenheim Foundation, Fulbright, and the Mellon Foundation, among others.

An article from Veiled Sentiments received the Stirling Award for Contributions to Psychological Anthropology. Writing Women's Worlds received the Victor Turner Award.[13] Carleton College awarded her an honorary doctorate in 2006.[citation needed]

Significant publications[edit]

  • Writing Women's Worlds: Bedouin Stories (University of California Press 1993) ISBN 978-0-520-08304-2
  • Remaking Women: Feminism and Modernity in the Middle East (Editor) (Princeton University Press 1998) ISBN 978-0-691-05792-7
  • Veiled Sentiments: Honor and Poetry in a Bedouin Society (University of California Press 2000) ISBN 978-0-520-22473-5
  • Media Worlds: Anthropology on New Terrain (Editor) (University of California Press 2002) ISBN 978-0-520-23231-0
  • Dramas of Nationhood: The Politics of Television in Egypt (University of Chicago Press 2004) ISBN 978-0-226-00197-5
  • Local Contexts of Islamism in Popular Media (Amsterdam University Press 2007) ISBN 978-90-5356-824-8
  • Nakba: Palestine, 1948, and the Claims of Memory with Ahmad H. Sa'di, (Columbia University Press 2007) ISBN 978-0-231-13578-8
  • Do Muslim Women Need Saving? (Harvard University Press 2013) ISBN 978-0-674-72516-4

Personal life[edit]

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

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Sherene Seikaly (Feb 13, 2014). "Commemorating Janet Abu-Lughod". Jadaliyya.
  3. ^ a b c "IMEU: Lila Abu-Lughod: Professor and author". 2007-09-28. Archived from the original on 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2018-05-05.
  4. ^ "Department of Anthropology: Lila Abu-Lughod". Retrieved 2018-05-05.
  5. ^ a b Bushnaq, Inea (1987-02-15). "SONGS FROM THE NOMADIC HEART". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-05-05.
  6. ^ a b "Columbia Center for Oral History Archives: Lila Abu-Lughod". Retrieved 2018-05-05.
  7. ^ "Book Review: Do Muslim Women Need Saving? by Lila Abu-Lughod". LSE Review of Books. 2014-02-19. Retrieved 2018-05-05.
  8. ^ "Do Muslim Women Need Saving? — Lila Abu-Lughod | Harvard University Press". Retrieved 2014-12-02.
  9. ^ Abu-Lughod, Lila (2002). "Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving? Anthropological Reflections on Cultural Relativism and its Others". American Anthropologist. 104 (3): 783–790. doi:10.1525/aa.2002.104.3.783. JSTOR 3567256. S2CID 19417513.
  10. ^ "Masthead". Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society. 2012-08-22. Retrieved 2017-08-21.
  11. ^ Project MUSE journal 321
  12. ^ "The Harvard Crimson :: News :: Matory To Join Duke Faculty". Archived from the original on 2008-10-25.
  13. ^ "Past Victor Turner Prize Winners | Society for Humanistic Anthropology". Retrieved 2021-06-07.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]