IMC 2006: Sessions

Session 1208: Defiant Women

Wednesday 12 July 2006, 14.15-15.45

Paper 1208-aTwo Radical Haircuts in Medieval Egypt: Gendering Politics in Times of Trouble
(Language: English)
Simonetta Calderini, Theology & Religious Studies Programme, School of Arts, Roehampton University
Index terms: Gender Studies, Islamic and Arabic Studies, Women’s Studies
Paper 1208-bThe Physical Language of Defamation and Defiance in Medieval Florence
(Language: English)
Lynn Marie Laufenberg, Department of History, Sweet Briar College, Virginia
Index terms: Gender Studies, Law, Social History, Women’s Studies
Paper 1208-cThree Unusual Medieval Muslim Women (unconfirmed)
(Language: English)
Kirsten Clarke, University of Edinburgh
Index terms: Islamic and Arabic Studies, Women’s Studies

Abstract paper -a: In Islamic societies, women’s hair and its covering could be an expression of female modesty and piety, a statement of obedience to divine injunctions, but also a sign of social standing. During medieval times, for a Muslim woman to show her hair was either a gesture of defiance or an assertion of high social status. On the other hand, to cut one’s hair and send it to men of power could become, for elite women, the ultimate gesture of distress, an appeal for external intervention in the face of a perceived grave injustice. This paper analyses the narratives of two women from the Fatimid dynastic family who sent out an S.O.S. to military commanders with diverse dramatic consequences.

Abstract paper -b: Medieval Florentine law proscribed shaming actions both as personal insults and as threats to civic tranquility that could spark vendetta. This paper discusses the physical vocabulary of slander and provocation in the 14th century as reflected in the criminal sentences of the city’s chief judicial official, the Podestà. In particular, it addresses the gendered dimension of such actions and compares the circumstances in which gestural insults delivered by male and female aggressors were similar and in which they differed. It also compares this Florentine data with findings on physical insult in other medieval Italian cities.

Abstract paper -c: This paper examines three very different women of the ruling Fatimid dynasty in 11th-century Cairo. From the murderous slave queen to a miserly nonegenarian princess, the three offer fascinating and rare pictures of women who broke through the harem walls for widely differing reasons, and who each had an important effect on the history of the period.