Marnia Lazreg, wide-ranging scholar of girls in Muslim world, dies at 83 | EUROtoday

Get real time updates directly on you device, subscribe now.

Marnia Lazreg, an writer and scholar who used her experiences in French colonial Algeria as beginning factors for research into the struggles and aspirations of girls throughout the Muslim world, together with her stance decrying the traditions of Islamic coverings comparable to headscarves, died Jan. 13 at a hospital in New York. She was 83.

She had been handled for endometrial most cancers, mentioned her son, Ramsi Woodcock.

Dr. Lazreg’s books and lectures over 5 many years roamed throughout historical past, spiritual expression and ways in which energy is wielded — politically, culturally and intellectually. She ranked among the many most revered educational voices on girls’s affairs in North Africa and helped increase Arab viewpoints in Western feminist scholarship.

Her work additionally carried autobiographical underpinnings. Some of her most acclaimed analysis and writing had roots in her witnessing of brutality and repression in Algeria’s battle for independence, and mirrored her private stance — at the same time as a preteen — of rejecting the billowing material coverings generally utilized by Algerian girls on the time.

“My work,” she as soon as mentioned, “reflects my horror of dogma, be it theoretical, methodological or political.”

Dr. Lazreg constructed her educational profession within the United States, however Algeria remained a polestar. She usually recounted the enjoyment and pleasure the nation felt in 1962 after victory in Algeria’s lengthy and bloody battle for independence, which claimed lots of of hundreds of lives.

“We had this incredible awakening,” she mentioned in a 2011 interview at a discussion board for the City University of New York system, the place she had led the Hunter College girls’s research program because the late Nineteen Eighties. “You woke up and you said, ‘Ha, it’s going to be different.’”

What changed French rule, nonetheless, was practically three many years of a single-party state after which, after multiparty elections in 1991 have been suspended, nearly a decade of civil battle searching for to crush the rising political affect of Islamists. The symbolism of these eras from the Fifties to the Nineties — resistance, then hope, then sectarian turmoil — pulsed by means of a lot of Dr. Lazreg’s analysis.

Her contributions to the historic file of Algeria embrace “The Eloquence of Silence” (1994), a survey of how Algerian girls navigated greater than a century from pre-colonial occasions to the combat towards French rule. Dr. Lazreg asserted that one of many pernicious legacies of European management was the “colonial mythification” of Arab girls as passive spectators to historical past.

As a robust counterpoint, later editions of the e-book famous the waves of girls within the Arab Spring uprisings in North Africa and elsewhere. “These events,” she wrote in an essay in 2012 throughout the top of the protests, “should be an opportunity for social scientists, especially those studying women, to pause and think.”

In “Torture and the Twilight of Empire: From Algiers to Baghdad” (2008), Dr. Lazreg detailed French repression in Algeria and drew parallels with the “wanton abuse of prisoners” in locations that grew to become synonymous with the U.S.-led wars, together with Abu Ghraib in Iraq and Guantánamo Bay. (France in 2018 acknowledged its use of systematic torture in Algeria.)

She described the e-book as a cautionary story. “A democratic country,” she mentioned, “is always in danger of reverting to torture because it is a source of absolutely boundless power.”

Yet the query of “the veil,” the varied Islamic coverings wore by many ladies throughout the Muslim world, grew to become maybe Dr. Lazreg’s defining challenge. As a woman, she mentioned she refused to put on the coverings utilized by practically everybody round her, together with her sister, mom and grandmother. “It controls a woman instead of being controlled by her,” Dr. Lazreg wrote in a 2009 essay, “it defeats her power to choose.”

Her e-book “Questioning the Veil” (2009) was constructed as a collection of arguments for Muslim girls — and males — making an attempt to dismantle causes for the veil, or hijab, together with modesty, to keep away from sexual harassment or as a show of piety. In Dr. Lazreg’s view, the hijab was primarily a instrument of misogyny that has no grounding in Quranic teachings.

“I can no longer stay quiet on an issue, the veil,” she wrote, “that in recent years has become so politicized that it threatens to shape and distort the identity of young women and girls throughout the Muslim world as well as Europe and North America.”

The e-book was banned in nations with strict enforcement of Islamic morality codes comparable to Saudi Arabia and Iran. Protests and threats by some Muslim college students at Hunter pressured Dr. Lazreg to maneuver her workplace contained in the college to a safer location.

For Dr. Lazreg, her determination to interrupt from household and native traditions involving the sporting of the hijab was one her first acts of independence. She additionally by no means forgot the picture of her mom, who couldn’t come to her help when a boy was harassing her when she was about 7. Her mom didn’t have her hijab close by and refused to depart the home. She hurled a wood clog as a substitute.

“The clog landed on my forehead, making a bloody gash,” Dr. Lazreg remembered. “I had a half-inch scar for many years to remember the incident by.”

Marnia Lazreg was born in Mostaganem, on Algeria’s Mediterranean coast, on Jan. 10, 1941. Her father bought dry items at a neighborhood market, and her mom was a homemaker.

Under the colonial system, practically all Algerian college students have been despatched to what have been known as “native schools.” At one level, the younger Marnia got here down with a chilly that her mom blamed on the drafty classroom. Marnia was allowed to attend the college for kids of French households till the climate warmed. She by no means left, and graduated in 1960.

After independence, her household moved to Algiers and took over an condominium vacated by French tenants who fled the nation. She labored within the municipal administration of Algiers however was being denied a go to depart the federal government constructing throughout the day for non-job actions. She solid the doc and enrolled on the University of Algiers. She graduated with a level in English literature in 1966.

She took a job with Sonatrach, the nationwide oil firm, and was assigned in 1967 to open its first workplace within the United States, in New York’s Rockefeller Center. She obtained a grasp’s diploma in sociology from New York University in 1970 and a doctorate in 1975. Dr. Lazreg’s first e-book, “The Emergence of Classes in Algeria” (1976), was primarily based on her dissertation about class variations rising in postcolonial Algeria after many years of collective subjugation.

Her different books embrace a groundbreaking examine on the French thinker Michel Foucault, “Foucault’s Orient” (2017), which put ahead a case that Foucault possessed robust Western bias and thought of the mental traditions in Asia, the Arab world and elsewhere incapable of full rational thought.

She taught at Brooklyn College, Hunter College and the New School for Social Research in New York within the Nineteen Seventies after which took affiliate professor positions at varied intuitions, together with Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, N.Y. Dr. Lazreg returned to Hunter as a professor of sociology in 1988 and remained there till her loss of life.

Outside academia, she performed a job in constructing applications on the World Bank from 1999 to 2000 to introduce improvement loans that gave extra consideration to increasing alternatives for ladies and ladies. Dr. Lazreg was additionally a longtime adviser to the U.N. Development Program.

As a novelist, she wrote underneath the identify Meriem Belkelthoum. Her 2019 French-language novel, “The Awakening of the Mother,” was primarily based on her household’s life in Algeria.

Her marriage to Mark Woodcock led to divorce. Survivors embrace two sons, Ramsi and Reda; and a granddaughter.

Dr. Lazreg described her books and analysis as a technique of excavating the tales of her homeland. Under colonial rule, solely French historical past and French views have been introduced in faculties.

“Writing about Algeria,” she mentioned, “is an endless discovery of a history I was never taught.”