Religion, patriarchy, misogyny (Jovanović, Sinanović)

Chair: Klara Otorepec

The most pressing contemporary conflicts regarding the social role of religion in Europe are doubtlessly those, related to Islamic minorities and their integration; unlike the right, the left is struggling to find the clear answers, wavering between unity on strictly secular basis and multicultural cohabitation. On the other hand, the left often perceives religion as inherently backwards, especially when it comes to the question of gender roles, e.g. the frequent reproduction of misogyny and the tendency to retraditionalization that occurs in the religious communities.  The panel will try to find a way how to address the role of gender and its consequences in relation to the dominant secularist reception of any sort of religious practice, with the emphasis on (Western) notions about freedoms and gender (in)equality in relation to Islam and Orthodox Church – two religious practices that are common also in the ex-Yugoslavia region. It will try to analyze what are the potential negative outcomes for the left perspectives when they insist only on the secularist point of view while overlooking other factors that maintain seemingly religiously motivated misogyny.

Muanis Sinanović: Repression of men’s sexuality and misogyny in some modern Islamic societies

First, I am going to question the predominant notion of Islamic culture as the starting point for the analysis of the misogyny in modern Islamic societies. Islam is a religion, based on a holy text called the Qur’an, which is a-cultural as far as it is inherently countercultural and at the same time transhistorical.

If we want to understand how sexual economy which produces misogyny in these societies functions, we have to take into account that the modern kind of it is a relatively new phenomenon which was not historically predominant in the Islamic world and is rather related to victorian morals of the English colonizers. On the other hand, we must consider the phenomenon of a recent baby boom in Arab world and a wide range of unemployment which, in relation to some pro-feminist conceptions in the Qur’an and the first Islamic community, when implemented in a secular capitalist state, result in a great respect towards married women on the one hand, and in an extreme misogyny towards unmarried women on the other hand. The latter is caused by the fact that many young muslim men are too poor to be able to economically provide for a potential wife and therefore are not allowed to marry – and therefore are not allowed to have sex.

The situation is not as black and white as Westerners usually think and leads us to the conclusion that if we are silent about capitalism, we have to be silent about chauvinism in Islamic societies. And, secularism is a direct product of capitalism (nevertheless, I’m not going to criticise secularism per se).

Muanis Sunanović works for Radio Študent, writing social and political commentaries, as well as literary criticism. He is also the editor of the literary journal IDIOT. In 2012 he won the Best Debut of the Year, awarded by the Slovene Writers’ Association, for his poetry. He was also chosen to be a critic for the critics festival Pranger in 2016 and 2017. He presented his analyses of cultural and artistic phenomena at various discussions and round tables, for example at the Literodrom festival, the Week of Slovenian Drama and an intervention at the Academy of Fine Arts .

Andrea Jovanović: Women in Orthodox Serbia: between practices and beliefs

Today in Serbia women find themselves caught at the crossroads of two different stances towards religion. The first one is the western-like secular position which was introduced in the last two decades or more by a top-down approach, characteristic of transitional processes in all postsocialist societies. The other one is the retraditionalization brought by the revival of the political role of the Orthodox Church in the nineties. The latter did, in some sense, reintroduce patriarchal and retrograde views towards women’s role in society and different women’s rights. In the first part of this speech, I will try to analyze the extent to which these views influence the everyday life of women, both formally and practically. In the second part, I will analyze the contra-reactions towards this religiously based retraditionalization, which mostly came from the liberal parts of the feminist public in Serbia. I’ll try to show that these types of reactions often led to a further deepening of the problem – since the critique was mostly based on modernist secularistic western type of argumentation, it didn’t include in its approach cultural differences and traditions that exists in this region. For an effective left critique of women’s position in Orthodox society to take place, we have to focus on two often neglected issues: (1) by arguing against different religious practices, we shouldn’t fail to observe the traditional ways women organized themselves in fighting against these restraints and dismiss them altogether, and (2) we must investigate the history of relations between Church and women during the Yugoslavia period in order to understand what practices survived the socialist revolution and in which forms they were revived during the nineties in order to better understand where we stand today.

Andrea Jovanović is a master student at the Faculty of Media and Communications, Belgrade. Her theoretical interests cover the critique of political economy, Marxist feminism and theories of labour in capitalism. She is a member of the Kolektiv Gerusija (Novi Sad and Belgrade).

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