Gender symbolism and the expression of post-colonial national and religious identities

Máiréad Dunne, Kathleen Fincham, Barbara Crossouard, Naureen Durrani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


This paper traces the symbolic importance of gender to the assertion of national and religious identities drawing on case study data with youth from Senegal, Pakistan, Nigeria and Lebanon. We start with a brief overview of the theoretical and methodological approach to the research. We then illustrate the gender assumptions within youth identity narratives and the ways these produce masculinist and patriarchal national imaginaries that instantiate a heteronormative hierarchy and gender polarity. Intersecting with this, we explore the ways that particular claims to Islam also legitimise and depend on the surveillance and regulation of women. We further show how gender remains a significant dimension of national othering and a site of explicit postcolonial resistance that strengthens and stabilises heteronormative gender hierarchies and associated inequalities. Nevertheless, youth’s imaginaries are of a modernising religious nation, which are articulated in contra-distinction to the secular imaginaries of former colonising nations of the West. Provoked by this opposition, we show how religion is central in the production of nation states, colonial and post-colonial, and the ways that gender is inscribed in both. We point to the gender continuities of the post-colonial and former colonising states. Both sustain the continued surveillance and regulation of women and their bodies are used to inscribe power regimes and define difference. Finally we question the adequacy of liberal understandings of gender equality for disrupting the powerful gender symbolism embedded in youth’s national and religious imaginaries as well as the material conditions that emanate from these.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)376
Number of pages387
JournalSocial Identities
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2020


  • gender regulation
  • Gender symbolism
  • identities
  • nation
  • postcoloniality
  • religion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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