Student Blogger - #dgemw Blog: Kinship and Civic Myths
Suad Joseph notes that it is interesting that we are still wondering about the relationship between women's rights and democracy. They are quite unfinished projects that are hard to contain and hard to define. The idea of democracy that we usually use is bundled with rights. It also related to citizenship, which is both a question of formal law and one of rights and responsibilities and how these are carried out. Citizenship is defined by civic myths. Civic myths inform how people see themselves and each other and what their relationships are with their community.
Joseph would like to focus on the civic myth of kinship or the kin contract. When we think about kinship we tend to focus on family law. And this makes intuitive sense. The relationship between family and state is important. However, we should not forget that the family has the power to shape the state. We should look at the family as the point of departure when looking at women's rights. Family relationships have a dynamic force of their own and they have a causal connection with material reality. We should ask why women stay in their families? Can family and kinship be understood in the context of care? We should not ignore the importance of care and attachment when in examining control and subordination. This is why Joseph does not focus on patriarchy even though does not deny its existence.
In order to illustrate her point she presents the example of Lebanon. One of Lebanon's civic myths is sectarian pluralism. This myth insists that different religious sects require different personal status laws. The fallacy is that the eighteen religious sects are not discrete. There is not really unity within the sects and there is much cross-similarity. In reality, the connection and obligation to the family supersedes that to the religious sect. And this is too often neglected in analysis. How do we understand rights in a society where one must be connected to kin networks in order to engage in society? Kin networks must be seen as shaping political realities, not merely subject to them.