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Piety, Gender, and Modernity: Anthropological Perspectives


Admission requirements

This course is intended primarily for students in the MA Programme Theology and Religious Studies. Other interested students should gain the lecturer’s permission to follow the course.


This course offers an in-depth analysis of the relationship between piety, gender, and modernity. It consists of two parts.

In the first part, we will read and discuss Saba Mahmood’s Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject. Through this study of a women’s piety movement in Cairo, we will explore alternative conceptions of piety and modernity, question key assumptions in feminist and liberal thought about freedom and autonomy, and analyze the forms and role of religious arguments and bodily practices in the cultivation of the pious self.

In the second part of the course, we will further explore the relationship between piety, gender, and modernity. Building on Mahmood’s study, each student will discuss an ethnography of his or her own choice related to the theme of piety, gender, and modernity. Examples of ethnographies related to the theme of the course are:

Ahmad, Sadaf. Transforming Faith: The Story of Al-Huda and Islamic Revivalism among Urban Pakistani Women. New York: Syracuse University Press, 2009.
Bonifacio, Glenda Tibe, and Vivienne S. M. Angeles (eds.). Gender, Religion, and Migration: Pathways of Integration. Plymouth: Lexington Books, 2010.
Deeb, Lara. An Enchanted Modern: Gender and Public Piety in Shici Lebanon. Princeton University Press, 2006.
Hirst, Jacqueline Suthren, and Lynn Thomas (eds.). Playing for Real: Hindu Role Models, Religion, and Gender. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2004.
Selby, Jennifer. Questioning French Secularism: Gender Politics and Islam in a Parisian Suburb. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2012.
Soothill, Jane E. Gender, Social Change and Spiritual Power: Charismatic Christianity in Ghana. Leiden: Brill, 2007.
Stadler, Nurit. Yeshiva Fundamentalism: Piety, Gender, and Resistance in the Ultra-Orthodox World. New York University Press, 2009.

Course objectives

After successfully completing the course, the student is able to:

  • convey in his or her own words the content of Mahmood’s study of an Islamic piety movement and to critically discuss this study.

  • relate Mahmood’s study to his or her own field of interest and to report about it orally and in writing.


See Time table

Mode of instruction


h3 course load

5 EC = 140 hrs
Weekly meetings, 24 hrs
Weekly reading assignments, 40 hrs
4 essays of 500 words for lay readership on reading material, 4 × 4 hrs, 16 hrs
Preparation for presentation including reading of ethnography of one’s choice, 40 hrs
Final paper of 1500 words, 20 hrs

Assessment method

Essays (40%)
Presentation (20%)
Final paper (40%)


A detailed programme of the course announcing the themes of the meetings, reading assignments, and further requirements will be available via Blackboard.

Yes, see Blackboard.

Reading list

Mahmood, Saba. Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject. Princeton University Press, 2005. ISBN 0-691-08695-8 (paperback).
Suggested reading:
Sjørup, Lene, and Hilde Rømer Christensen. Pieties and Gender. Leiden: Brill, 2009. ISBN 90-04-17826-7.


Via uSis
In addition to the registration in uSis, students are also expected to self-enroll in Blackboard a few weeks before the course starts.

Registration Studeren à la carte via:
Registration Contractonderwijs via:

Contact information

N.M. Dessing


Each student must have a copy of Mahmood’s study at the beginning of the course. The course is designed for a class of six to twelve students. If fewer than six or more than twelve students register, the course design will be adapted.