Secularity, Gender and Emancipation: Thinking through Feminist Activism and Feminist Approaches to the Secular

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In this article, I engage with feminist discussions about secularity, gender, and emancipation. The feminist study of the secular was spurred by interventions of Saba Mahmood [2005. The Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject. Princeton: Princeton University Press], and can be seen as a critical engagement with at least one basic assumption that underlies much of progressive thinking – that secularism is beneficial for women and LGBTQ subjects. I begin by exploring how the Belgian feminist activist platform Baas Over Eigen Hoofd! (Boss Over One’s Own Head!) builds a locally suited theory and practice of emancipation. I analyse how BOEH! raises questions about gender and secularity. Second, I zoom-out by mapping feminist studies of the secular in Western European contexts, distinguishing various analytical approaches and visions on social-political secular emancipatory alternatives. To conclude, I relate local feminist activism to feminist academic discussions, and argue that there is a continued need for thinking about shared emancipatory futures.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)691-716
Number of pages26
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2 Aug 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

© 2019 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.


  • The secular
  • religion
  • gender
  • emancipation
  • feminist activism
  • Western Europe


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