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Gender and economics; Islam and Polygamy - a question of causality

By Sondra Hale


Beginning by contrasting and comparing the fields of (feminist) anthropology and economics, this essay is a response to parts of Barbara Bergmann's article, “Becker's Theory of the Family: Preposterous Conclusions.” In attempting to expose the fallacies in Becker's discussion of the altruism of polygamous families, Bergmann stereotypes polygamous families and conflates Muslims and polygamous societies in the process. Further, she assumes oppression, arguing that most women in the polygamous families (i.e., Muslims) under discussion have an “abysmal status.” This essay argues for acknowledging our social location as researchers, not overgeneralizing about highly diverse societies and the varieties and experiences of women's lives, not assuming oppression, and viewing neither Islam nor polygamy as necessarily central determinants of the conditions of women's lives. Qualitative and quantitative examples of variations in African, Asian, and Middle Eastern women's lives are given - intersecting Muslim/non- Muslim, polygamous/nonpolygamous, Arab/non-Arab, poor/not-so-poor/ rich, rural/urban, and high/low “status” (with variations in health, politics, economics, and family life within and among countries).Anthropology, family, gender, Middle East, Muslim, polygamy,

DOI identifier: 10.1080/714042234
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