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Sacrificing the Career or the Family?

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Longman, Chia

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Abstract This article addresses the question of women's agency in traditionalist religion, through a study of self-narratives by women in the Orthodox Jewish community of Antwerp, Belgium. Women who study or work outside the boundaries of their community were interviewed about their experiences in negotiating gender ideologies by moving in and between the `secular' and `religious' spaces of higher education, work and home. Various subject positions emerged in terms of either rejecting, separating or reconciling dominant community norms regarding women's proper role with personal trajectories of self-realization and individual autonomy. On the one hand, the results confirm the possibility of women's agency within religious-traditionalist settings and in that sense subscribe to some recent feminist theoretical challenges to secularism. However, it is argued that the younger generation faces more restrictions in negotiating religious and secular gender-role expectations in the Antwerp context. Their prospects depend on the dynamic between global fundamentalist tendencies and local liberal state policies of multicultural accommodation.
Free Keywords Antwerp; feminist theory; fundamentalism; life-stories; multiculturalism; Orthodox Judaism; secularism; women's religious agency;
Document language English
Publication Year 2008
Page/Pages p. 223-239
Journal European Journal of Women's Studies, 15 (2008) 3
Status Postprint; peer reviewed
Licence PEER Licence Agreement (applicable only to documents from PEER project)