Feminist Spotlight: Barbara Nimiri Naziz

azizAziz started out her career as an anthropologist and academic working primarily in the Himalayas, India, and China. After 20 years, she transitioned out of academia to become a radio and print journalist discussing the Middle East. Her weekly show, Tahrir, is one of the only regularized outlets for Muslim intellectuals on the radio.

In 1992, she founded RAWI Inc., a group of Arab American writers, to encourage and cultivate Arab voices in the U.S. and Canada.

Her writing includes critical engagement with the idea that feminism is a Western construct or that western feminists must bring feminism to women around the world (ie outside of the West). Her scathing essay “Move Over” questions the nationalism of mainstream N. American feminism and the ways in which it supports the war effort through the mobilization of the “oppressed Arab woman” over the stories, triumphs, and complexities of Muslim and Arab feminists around the world. In this essay she questions any feminism that would reduce women of color’s contributions to what they can or do say about intraracial violence between women and men of color rather than seeing it as one of many things we address. She also questions the idea that feminism has been so successful in a single location pointing to the entrenched existence of patriarchal power in the West.

Her article “Iraqi Women Hurt the Most by Sanctions” draws particular attention to the gendered experience of war and the impact of non-military solutions on civilian women that are often unquestioned when we think of foreign policy. Her extensive work/writing in this area forces us to take a gendered lens to global conflict beyond gender analysis of war and into the realm of other solutions as well.

She is author of several ethnographies and two newer books on the Middle East. The first book was to be entitled Between Two Rivers: The Story of an American Woman’s Journey in Iraq but was renamed Swimming up the Tigris by the publisher . . . Between Two Rivers takes a strong look at UN sanctions and its impact on health care, women’s rights, and fundamentalism as well as critiques internal divisions and divisiveness. She has also published a book of feminism in Nepal and a feminist ethnography of family life in rural Tibet.

Naziz is also a feminist blogger; her blogging often discusses women’s rights from fashion to the economy to war. (If you do nothing else with this entry, go check out the RAWI Author’s Table and then get thee to a library or bookstore.)

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