“Double Critique” and the Sufi Praxis of Travel in Leila Ahmed's A Border Passage and Fatema Mernissi's Scheherazade Goes West

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Bernadette Andrea University of California, Santa Barbara, USA bernadette.andrea@english.ucsb.edu

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Abstract

This article focuses on two twentieth-century Anglophone Arab women writers’ accounts of their travels to “the West”: Leila Ahmed's A Border Passage: From Cairo to America—A Woman's Journey (1999), and Fatema Mernissi's Scheherazade Goes West: Different Cultures, Different Harems (2001). While their engagement with orientalist conceptions of the harem has received some attention, how and why they deploy Sufi texts, concepts, and cosmologies to advance their “double critique” of local and colonial patriarchies has not been subject to a sustained analysis, despite its salience in their travelogues. This article establishes that the Sufi praxis of travel (safar) becomes a facilitating framework, and ultimately a methodology derived from culturally grounded ways of knowing and being, for their overdetermined journeys toward what has been called “Islamic feminism.”

Contributor Notes

Bernadette Andrea is professor of literary and cultural studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her books include Travel and Travail: Early Modern Women, English Drama, and the Wider World, with Patricia Akhimie (University of Nebraska Press, 2019); The Lives of Girls and Women from the Islamic World in Early Modern British Literature and Culture (University of Toronto Press, 2017); English Women Staging Islam, 1696–1707 (ITER and Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, University of Toronto, 2012); Early Modern England and Islamic Worlds, with Linda McJannet (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011); and Women and Islam in Early Modern English Literature (Cambridge University Press, 2007). E-mail: bernadette.andrea@english.ucsb.edu

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Journeys

The International Journal of Travel and Travel Writing

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