Online Summer Programme - Gender in Muslim Contexts

July 6-14, 2020

Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations

Develop your knowledge of how gender identities and relations play a central role in shaping the social and cultural dynamics of Muslim contexts and how Muslims and Islam are perceived and represented in public discourses in the West. 


Run by leading experts on gender and Islam, the ISMC Summer Programme: Gender in Muslim Contexts will bring together scholars and students from diverse backgrounds to discuss key issues in the study of gender in Muslim contexts. It will provide students with a critical understanding of gender identities and equip them with key tools and approaches in gender studies. 


Designed in collaboration with Simon Fraser University, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice and Venice International University.


Module topics include:

Gendering Migration

Gender and Sharia

Men and Masculinities

Everyday Islam and Women’s Empowerment

Islamic Feminism



Sevgi Adak, Aga Khan University, ISMC

Sanaa Alimia, Aga Khan University, ISMC

Jonas Otterbeck, Aga Khan University, ISMC

In response to COVID-19, this course will be delivered online and will feature live lectures, one to one sessions with lecturers and interactive seminars.



Session 1: Understanding Gender: Key concepts and debates 

Sevgi Adak, AKU-ISMC

The session will provide an introduction to gender as a concept and an interdisciplinary field of study. The main aim of this first session is familiarise the participants with the key questions and issues in gender studies scholarship and to provide a critical forum to discuss various aspects of gender as a lived experience and the ways in which it intersects with class, ethnicity, sexuality and religious identities. The session will also focus on gender inequality and patriarchy as essential concepts for feminist analysis and engage with the debate on the historical and cross-cultural variations in gender regimes, with a special emphasis on Muslim contexts.


Session 2: Gendering Muslim Contexts 

Sevgi Adak, AKU-ISMC

This session outlines the main issues in the study of gender in Muslim contexts. It focuses on the idea of “gendering” Muslim contexts and analyses how and why gender is central to understanding Muslim identities, past and present.  It provides an overview of the main issues and debates in the literature, as well as the current state of women’s rights in Muslim contexts and the main challenges women’s rights groups face. As such, the session sets the stage for the following sessions. The focus in the second part of the session will be on the question of women’s political participation in Muslim contexts and participation in the labour force. 


Session 3: Gender and Sharia 

Jonas Otterbeck, AKU-ISMC

This session focuses on normativity as expressed in Sharia, the jurisprudence of Islam. Gender is crucial in almost all discussions of Sharia and has been so historically. But Sharia is not a single text set in stone. Rather, it is the discourse on jurisprudence as expressed in texts and other practices. Together we will look into the gendered logic behind key ideas and rulings through a number of historical and contemporary examples. We will also discuss contemporary resistance to ingrained interpretations and the possibilities of the ethical turn in Sharia scholarship.


Session 4: Violence, War and Gender 

Sanaa Alimia, AKU-ISMC

This session engages with two different conceptual definitions of violence and how this impacts Muslim women. The session is divided into two halves. First, the session explores gender based violence in Muslim settings with specific attention to gender based violence and "honour" killings.  Second, the session explores the impact of war on women and gender relations - and the gendered nature of war - through examples in the historic and contemporary Muslim world.

Session 5: Gender and Migration 

Sanaa Alimia, AKU-ISMC

Ours is the age of borders and displacement. It is also the age of globalisation where population flows have been a central part of capitalism’s expansion. In this session we will interrogate how gender informs decisions to move within and across national borders. Split into two halves, we will first explore definitions. What does it mean to be a non-citizen, a refugee, an undocumented migrant, and how does this contrast with being a citizen? Next, we will explore why do people take decisions to move and who moves and who gets left behind? What, for example, are the impacts of family separation? In the second half of the session we will shift the focus to look at case studies of people who move because of sexual orientation, sexuality, and/ or gender and some of the challenges that they face as a result.


Session 6: Men and Masculinities 

Jonas Otterbeck, AKU-ISMC

This session will explore the issue of gender in relation to men and masculinities. The ideals and conditions of practicing masculinity is far too seldom approached in research but some important progress has been made the last two decades. Taking our departure in Sarah Ahmed’s thoughts about phenomenological directionality and representation, but also the discussions about ethical selves, this session will analytically discuss some examples of different masculinities among Muslims. It will explore the interconnectedness between tradition, religious norms, class, economy, education and lifestyle expectations. 


Session 7: Gender, everyday Islam and women’s empowerment 

Sevgi Adak, AKU-ISMC

This session discusses how gender identities are constructed, contested and performed in micro-politics of everyday life. Following the literature on feminist anthropology of Islam, it will focus specifically on the ways in which ordinary Muslim women mobilise their capacities to claim their space in the religious domain and in the shaping of Islamic practices. To illustrate this, various examples of “women in mosques” movements will be discussed. This discussion, then, will be followed by a conceptual one on women’s empowerment in the light of the recent debates on the postcolonial feminist critique of women’s agency as feminist agency. 


Session 8: Women’s activism and feminism  

Sevgi Adak, AKU-ISMC

This session looks at the history of women’s political activism in Muslim contexts and examines the legacy of this history for the women’s rights struggle and the relationship between different women’s organisations today. Following this historical overview, the session especially focuses on the recent debate on Islamic feminism and the various implications of this debate for feminist activism and solidarity among women’s movements in Muslim contexts.  The session also addresses the wider impact of this debate regarding the questions of women’s place in Islam and secularism. 


Who can apply?

The programme is open to advanced undergraduate students, graduate students and those with prior interest in the subject or a record of study in a related topic .



Please send a CV and a statement of motivation to

Application deadline: 29 May, 2020


Fees £200 Professionals

£100 students


Details about the payment of the tuition fee will be sent following enrolment onto the Summer Programme.  Official enrolment onto the programme will be confirmed once the admission process is completed and the tuition fee is paid.  

Image credit:

An image by Bahia Shehab painted in New York – the butterfly represents the women who are trapped and imprisoned across the world.


In response to COVID-19, this course will be delivered online.