Hermeneutics of Desire: Ontologies of Gender and Desire in Early Ḥanafī Law

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Date

2016

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Yacoob, Saadia

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Moosa, Ebrahim
Prasad, Leela

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Abstract

This dissertation examines the construction of gendered legal subjects in the influential legal works of the eleventh century Ḥanafī jurist, Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad al-Sarakhsī (d. 483 A.H./1090 C.E.). In particular, I explore how gendered subjects are imagined in legal matters pertaining to sexual desire. Through a close reading of several legal cases, I argue that gendered subjects in his legal work al-Mabsūṭ are constructed through an ontological framework that conceptualizes men as active and desiring and women as passive and desirable. This binary construal of gendered nature serves as a hermeneutical given in al-Sarakhsī’s legal argumentation and is produced through a phallocentric epistemology. Al-Sarakhsī’s discussions of desire and sexuality are mediated through the experience of the male body. While the dissertation endeavors to show the centrality of the active/passive binary in al-Sarakhsī’s legal reasoning, it also highlights the dissonances and fissures in the text’s construction of gendered subjects of desire. By tracing the intricacies of al-Sarakhsī’s legal reasoning, I note moments in which the text makes contradictory claims about gender and desire, as well as moments in which al-Sarakhsī must contend with realities that seemingly run up against his ontological framework. These moments in the text draw our attention to al-Sarakhsī’s active attempt at maintaining the coherence of the gendered ontology. I thus argue that the gendered ontology in al-Sarakhsī’s text is a legal fiction that both reflects his assumptions about gendered nature but is also constructed to rationalize legal precedence.

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Yacoob, Saadia (2016). Hermeneutics of Desire: Ontologies of Gender and Desire in Early Ḥanafī Law. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/13407.

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