Remaking Muslim Society by Remaking its Women: Azerbaijani Case of Muslim Women’s Reformation, 1890 – 1920


Despite a growing body of literature on societal reorganization in the Middle East and in the former Soviet Islamic territories, the history of Azerbaijani cultural reformation remains understudied. In particular, the subjects of Muslim women’s education, establishment of women’s benevolent societies and women’s journals in old-Imperial Azerbaijan has not been the subject of any existing historical accounts. This gap in the historiography has led to a popular misconception that the reformation of Muslim women’s societal position only started in the Soviet period. This lecture aspires to fill a gap in the limited knowledge on ideas about cultural modernization, Azeri women, and their transformation.
In Azerbaijan, the late-Imperial concepts about womanhood and motherhood, envisaging women as unveiled, modern, and educated, were linked with motherhood and the fate of the imagined progressive nation, millat. Azerbaijani men of letters crafted an image of a new woman: the gentle wife and the scientific mother who could give birth and raise only future state leaders, lawyers, doctors, scientists, and lawful citizens, and nothing less. That conception of new types of mothers as the foundation of the proposed millat, nevertheless, brought new social norms for gendered relationships. In the press, Azerbaijani intellectuals and politicians voiced their arguments for granting Muslim women greater independence from conventional hierarchies within family and society. In particular, the modern public education program, the introduction of the first public schools and female teacher training centre, gave rise to the new cohort of independent and modern educated female intellectuals, politicians, and civil servants. This new generation of Muslim women continued the policies for female emancipation during the period of the Azerbaijani Democratic Republic, 1918 – 1920, and after the sovietization of Azerbaijan in 1920.

speaker: Yelena Abdullayeva 

Date: 17:00 June 22, 2021

Languages: Georgian, English

Format: Online, Facebook Live


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