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South Asian Muslim Women.

Tahera Aftab, INSCRIBING SOUTH ASIAN MUSLIM WOMEN: AN ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY & RESEARCH GUIDE. Boston: Brill, 2008. (Handbook of Oriental studies series.) 616p. $167.00, ISBN 978-9004158498.

The confluence of global contemporary politics and grounded, in-depth bibliographic research is uncommon, particularly in area studies. Although the present war(s) and political climates have created a heightened awareness of Islam, South Asia and of women, works such as Tahera Aftab's Inscribing South Asian Muslim Women: An Annotated Bibliography and Research Guide create hope that researchers can take this newfound awareness and turn it into sensitive and subtle understandings.

Part of the longstanding tradition of solid reference works to come out of Brill's Handbook of Oriental Studies series, Inscribing South Asian Muslim Women tackles the field head-on, striving for comprehensiveness in time (coverage ranges from the thirteenth century onward, with the majority of titles falling in the twentieth century) and in format (citations include journal articles and monographs as well as individual chapters and unpublished manuscripts). Thankfully, Aftab has begun the much needed work of documenting non-English sources in an integrated fashion, in the present case including citations to materials in Urdu and Bengali (and to a lesser extent in Arabic, Farsi and Sindhi). On the whole, and with only few exceptions, the annotations are full and instructive; for materials not in English, Aftab also provides useful summaries. The thematic organization of the bibliography will prove helpful both to novices (one can imagine helping undergraduates examining popular, recurring questions through such chapters as "Pardah--Muslim women in/out of seclusion" [Section Four] and "The life cycle of South Asian Muslim women" [Section Nine]) and to seasoned women's studies scholars researching in new arenas ("In search of their identity: Muslim women setting new goals" [Section Six], "Muslim women's movements in South Asia" [Section Eight], and "Feminism, new scholarship and new tools for development" [Section Sixteen]).

An exploration of the particularly South Asian context of Muslim societies and women is especially welcome, given that most material on Islam found in "the West" limits itself to discussions of the Middle East. Yet we must remember that "South Asia" itself refuses to homogenize its diversity, including that of the Muslim community. While we reconcile ourselves to the fact that the preponderance of writings on South Asian Muslims focus on Pakistan, northwestern India, and Bangladesh, Inscribing South Asian Muslim Women reminds us of the need for future efforts, bibliographic and otherwise, to reflect more fully the complicated regional and linguistic realities of South Asian women's lives.

Reviewed by Mary Rader

[Mary Rader is the South Asia bibliographer and the head of collection and liaison services at the University of Wisconsin's Memorial Library.]

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Title Annotation:Inscribing South Asian Muslim Women: An Annotated Bibliography and Research Guide
Author:Rader, Mary
Publication:Feminist Collections: A Quarterly of Women's Studies Resources
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 22, 2008
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