Title: “Gendering Sharia in the Muslim Workplace: Corporate Islam in Malaysia”
Abstract: This talk presents material from a long-term ethnographic project to study Malaysian companies which are significant employers of Muslims and emphasize—as substantial number of Malaysian companies do—the Islamicity of personnel and corporate policy. It explores the role that gender and sharia play in the lives of the men and women who work there. For over thirty years, I’ve traced the path of Islam in the boardrooms, lunchrooms, prayer rooms, and cubicles of Malaysian corporations, where, as in any modern capitalist economy, a significant number of men and women spend the greatest portion of their waking lives. I argue that there, as in workplace and in work relations everywhere, much of modern corporate subjectivity is fashioned. But in Malaysia, it is also fashioned as “Islamic.” Today’s talk addresses how what I call “personnel sharia” informs Malaysian Muslim business culture and how it affects gender relations in the workplace where much has changed of the thirty years of my ethnographic engagement with it. Using examples from sharia-inflected human resource policy and of two difference cases of workplace sexual harassment in Malay-Muslim corporations, I discuss how as sharia has become more conservative—and more patriarchal regarding personal status law—many of its premises have been reconstituted and legitimated in corporate space for personnel.
Speaker’s biography: Professor Patricia Sloane-White is a social anthropologist who earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology at Amherst College, her M.A. in Anthropology at Princeton University, and her DPhil at University of Oxford. She is a professor of anthropology and chair of the Department of Women and Gender Studies with joint appointments in Asian Studies and Islamic Studies at the University of Delaware, USA. She has been teaching at the University of Delaware since 2002, and prior to that was teaching tutorials in Social Anthropology at Oxford University, served as a post-doctoral researcher at the National University of Malaysia (UKM), and is the recipient of two Fulbright Awards. She has researched Islam, Muslim entrepreneurship, and corporate business in Malaysia for nearly 30 years and has written numerous articles on the Malaysian Muslim middle class, gender, shariah, zakat, and the Muslim workplace. The author of Islam, Modernity and Entrepreneurship among the Malays (Palgrave/Macmillian, 1998), her recent book, the winner of several awards in law and religion, is Corporate Islam: Sharia and the Modern Workplace (Cambridge University Press, 2017). The book was translated into Turkish in 2021. Patricia served as the Chair of the Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei Studies group, a section of the Association for Asian Studies in the U.S. for four years until 2022 and currently serves as a member of its Executive Committee.
This seminar is the first of two events with Professor Sloane-White organized by CSEAS’s Gender Equality Promotion Committee, with the generous support of the Kyoto University Research Coordination Alliance (KURCA).
For the second seminar on “Gender Issues in Academia − In Conversation with Professor Patricia Sloane-White” taking place on Tuesday, the 11th of July 2023, please RSVP here.
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