"Sex, Secularism and Sectarianism: The Legal Architecture of Citizenship in Contemporary Lebanon" with Maya Mikdashi

Fall 2013 Lecture Series

Thursday, November 14, 2013 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM
Buchanan Hall (formerly Mason Hall), Edwin Meese Room

This lecture will critically examine the legal architecture of Lebanese citizenship through the practice of strategic conversion, or religious conversion undertaken in order to make use of different aspects of the legal system. Mikdashi illustrates 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. Through ethnographic and archival research on these practices of strategic conversion and the legal "correction" of sex by transsexual citizens, Mikdashi questions 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, the contemporary Middle East, and beyond?

Maya Mikdashi is a socio-cultural anthropologist and Co-Director of the documentary film About Baghdad. She is currently a Faculty Fellow and Director of Graduate Studies at the NYU Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies. She is Co-Founder/Editor of Jadaliyya Ezine.