University of California Press
Commonly portrayed in the media as holding women in strict subordination and deference to men, Islam is nonetheless attracting numerous converts among African American women. Are these women "reproducing their oppression," as it might seem? Or does their adherence to the religion suggest unsuspected subtleties and complexities in the relation of women, especially black women, to Islam? Carolyn Rouse sought answers to these questions among the women of Sunni Muslim mosques in Los Angeles. Her richly textured study provides rare insight into the meaning of Islam for African American women; in particular, Rouse shows how the teachings of Islam give these women a sense of power and control over interpretations of gender, family, authority, and obligations.
In Engaged Surrender, Islam becomes a unique prism for clarifying the role of faith in contemporary black women's experience. Through these women's stories, Rouse reveals how commitment to Islam refracts complex processesurbanization, political and social radicalization, and deindustrializationthat shape black lives generally, and black women's lives in particular. Rather than focusing on traditional (and deeply male) ideas of autonomy and supremacy, the bookand the community of women it depictsemphasizes more holistic notions of collective obligation, personal humility, and commitment to overarching codes of conduct and belief. A much-needed corrective to media portraits of Islam and the misconceptions they engender, this engaged and engaging work offers an intimate, in-depth look into the vexed and interlocking issues of Islam, gender, and race.
"This sharp and timely book is a pioneering contribution. Systematically mapping African American women's lives within Islam for the first time, Rouse establishes that engagement is as meaningful an ethic as liberation for black women, and black folk generally. A provocative, deeply conscientious work that will engender overdue debate in anthropology, feminist studies, black studies, and Islamic studies."--Adam Green, Assistant Professor of History and American Studies, New York University
"Rouse's study charts a neglected and much misunderstood path for Black women's empowerment. What we learn rocks many assumptions of liberalism, Western feminism, women's activism, and prevailing notions of freedom. In a climate where the status of women within Islam is uncritically used as proof of women's oppression, Engaged Surrender reads like a breath of fresh air."--Patricia Hill Collins, author of Black Feminist Thought
"Engaged Surrender is an insightful ethnographic analysis of two dozen women who are members of two masjids in southern California. We learn about their conversions, the ways their lives have changed, and how they negotiate a desire for agency and a traditional gender hierarchy--from childrearing, to hijab-wearing, to work, to marriage, to Qur'anic exegesis. Rouse's vivid portrayal of her subjects and fluent familiarity with feminist debates and anthropological theory make this book a compelling new study, particularly in the wake of 9/11."--Faye Ginsburg, author of Contested Lives