The special issue of the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies 10.1, entitled “Scholar, Mentor, Activist: Sondra Hale’s Transnational Feminist Commitments,” aims to highlight the seminal contributions of Professor Sondra Hale to the fields of anthropology, gender studies, Middle East studies, Sudan studies, and African studies. We approach the Introduction of this special issue as former students of Hale. Our relationship to Sondra, then, has been that of junior scholars in the field of gender studies who have been mentored by Hale, and it is from this vantage point that we introduce this special issue.
Sondra Hale’s scholarship focuses on women’s movements and organizations, Islamic movements, postcolonial studies, transnational gender studies, and memory and resistance. Straddling several disciplines, her scholarship often addresses questions that emerge from the contradictory assumptions that frame these disciplines. Hence she brings into focus questions that urge a re-thinking of a series of relationships, e.g. between gender, race, class, ethnicity and the state; between Islam and women’s agency; between feminist methodology, ethnographic accountability, and the politics of representation; between politics and political activism; and between the role of memory in conflict zones and resistance—questions that remain significant in feminist studies in general, and to the study of gender in the Middle East and North Africa region more specifically. Sondra’s career spans a period of more than fifty years with publications in peer reviewed journals, books, magazines, and e-bulletins, as well as a flourishing ongoing research agenda that pushes into new areas of inquiry. Many of her works have been translated into Arabic, including, most recently, her book Gender Politics in Sudan: Socialism, Islamism and the State—the first-ever Sudanese gender studies book to be translated from English to Arabic (Hale 1996).
This special issue includes essays (“‘Every Slight Movement Counts for Everything’: Sondra Hale and Sudanese Art” by Susan Slyomovics, “Toward a Feminist Analysis of ‘Impact’: Sondra Hale’s Scholarship and Activism in and Beyond the University” by Anita Fábos and Emily Haddad, “Gender and Citizenship Center Stage: Sondra Hale’s Legacy and Egypt’s Ongoing Revolution” by Sherine Hafez, and “Sondra Hale’s ‘Ethnographic Residuals’: Silence and Non-Silence on Female Genital Cutting” by Ellen Gruenbaum), as well as a brief communication (“Sondra Hale’s Ethnographic Accountability” by Nadine Naber) and bibliographies of Hale’s contributions to arts and other publications. The issue concludes with Hale’s reflections, entitled “A Propensity for Self-Subversion and a Taste for Liberation: An Afterword.”
This special issue is not intended to be a comprehensive documentation of Hale’s contributions as a scholar-activist. Rather, the intention is to capture snapshotsof Hale’s scholarship and social life, to share how it travels, gains new meaning, and is taken up in by scholars in various capacities. We are privileged to study with Sondra and to know her on a personal level. We hope this special issue provides a glimpse into the personal and the political dimensions of Sondra Hale’s lifelong love and commitment for feminist intellectual pursuits and social justice struggles locally and transnationally. We look forward to many more exciting and challenging theoretical, methodological, and epistemological challenging contributions from Hale’s ongoing and newest projects!
Contributed by the JMEW's editorial team
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