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Free Content Sound and silence in Chinese women’s mosques – identity, faith and equality

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The evolution from early beginnings of Muslim women’s religious education in China, in the seventeenth century, when women were provided with rudimentary Islamic instruction, and taught from behind screens, to the emergence of more permanent women’s mosques (qingzhen nüsi) in the course of the nineteenth century, constitutes the historical background to an exploration of the relationship among silence, speech, voice, gender and power. Starting as informal gatherings in ad hoc, transitional spaces, dynamic and complex institutional sites developed to serve multiple functions and purposes, giving in the course of time rise to richly expressive cultures of sentiment and sound, piety and fear. The article seeks to problematize the coming-to-voice of Chinese believing women within the interlinking frameworks of aural ethnography and cross-cultural feminist theory. Written and audio-visual materials provide the sensory text for the author’s evocation of tangible surroundings, silenced and fleeting sensations, and for the historicizing of women’s lives lived at the intersection of Islamic/Confucian moral codes of jie – as feminine purity enshrouded, segregated and silenced – and modern claims for voice and gender equality.

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Keywords: Chinese Muslims; gender segregation; religious agency; strategic silence; voice; women’s mosques

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Oxford University

Publication date: May 1, 2014

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  • merging from an international network project funded by the British Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Economics and Social Research Council, and research collaboration between academics and practitioners, Performing Islam is the first peer-reviewed interdisciplinary journal about Islam and performance and their related aesthetics. It focuses on socio-cultural as well as the historical and political contexts of artistic practices in the Muslim world. The journal covers dance, ritual, theatre, performing arts, visual arts and cultures, and popular entertainment in Islam-influenced societies and their diasporas. It promotes insightful research of performative expressions of Islam by performers and publics, and encompasses theoretical debates, empirical studies, postgraduate research, interviews with performers, research notes and queries, and reviews of books, conferences, festivals, events and performances.
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