A lecture by Maya Mikdashi, New York University
This talk examines the legal practice of strategic conversion, by which I mean religious conversion undertaken in order to make use of different aspects of the Lebanese legal system. I illustrate the process of strategic conversion by comparing it to that of correcting one's sex in the census registry, an act that also changes the network of laws that applies to a citizen. A further comparison is made by introducing the practice of removing one's madhhab completely from state census registries, a right won by activists for a secular personal status law in March 2009. Through ethnographic and archival research on these practices of strategic conversion, madhhab removal, and the legal "correction" of sex by transsexual citizens, I question what effect the legal and bureaucratic transformation of madhhab or sex has on the identification and or/recognition of a citizen's sect or gender.
While madhhab is the category through which the Lebanese state recognizes the personal status pertaining to each citizen, sect is a more multivalent and dense category that is recognized by the use of various technologies. What are the mechanisms through which these identities of madhhab, sect, sex, and gender are recognized and practiced? In what ways are Lebanese citizens acting within and towards the law, and how do these actions help to redefine their identity as always in relation others? What work does the disarticulation of the madhhab and sect do, and how might this disarticulation inform scholarship on citizenship in Lebanon? Thinking with these questions, the talk will tease out the different technologies through which sex, gender, madhhab, and sect are both recognized and practiced in contemporary Lebanon. It calls for the categories of "madhhab" and "sect" to be critically re-interrogated, just as the categories of sex and gender were and continue to be.
Cost: Free and Open to the Public
Sponsor(s): UCLA Law, UCLA's Islamic Studies program, UCLA School of Law Critical Race Studies Program, as well as the Arab Studies Institute (ASI).
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