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IRWAG Research Friday with Maya Mikdashi on “Sex and Sectarianism”

The Institute for Research on Women and Gender at Columbia University presents
Research Friday with Maya Mikdashi
“Sex and Sectarianism: Disarticulating Madhhab/Sect and Sex/Gender”

Friday, October 7, 11am-12:30pm
754 Schermerhorn Extension, 1200 Amsterdam Avenue, Columbia University
Response from Kendall Thomas (Law, Columbia)

Lunch will be served!

Please join us for the first IRWAG Research Friday of the semester. We will workshop a dissertation chapter by PhD candidate Maya Mikdashi (Anthropology, Columbia). An abstract of the chapter is below. Please RSVP to to receive a copy of the paper and please indicate whether you would like a vegetarian lunch.


In this chapter I compare the legal practices of strategic conversion and shatb al madhhab. I illustrate the ways that Lebanese citizenship is built around the legal edifice of sex and madhhab. To illustrate the primacy of the legal category of sex in the Lebanese legal system, I offer the example of transsexual citizens who have “corrected their sex” in the census registry. I question what effect the legal and bureaucratic transformation of madhhab and/or sex has on the identification and/or recognition of a citizen’s sect or gender. As we shall see, while sex and madhhab are the main identifications through citizens are recognized and reproduced in Lebanese law, sect and gender are more multivalent and dense categories. The density of sect and gender and their uneven mapping into the legal categories of madhhab and sex are revealed through the practices of strategic conversion, shatb al madhhab, and “correcting” one’s sex. 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 what motivates them? Thinking with these questions, I tease out the different technologies through which sex, gender, madhhab and sect are both recognized and practiced in contemporary Lebanon. I call 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 in academic literature.

The Institute for Research on Women and Gender
Columbia University
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