This paper draws on our recent research into Muslim youth identities to consider theoretical and methodological issues with respect to gender and Muslim women's agency. Western constructions of Muslim women often portray them in essentialised ways as subordinated and without agency. We take up alternative theoretical frameworks that illuminate the limitations of modern understandings of the self and agency, and in particular their problematic association of agency with autonomy. These alternative frameworks also alert us to the possibilities of a different ‘ethics of the self' in which cultivation of Islamic values and submission to the will of God can involve agonistic work on the self which is not without agency. They prompt us to consider the methodological limitations of our research approach, in particular how this agonistic work on the self could readily be flattened and rendered invisible within a focus group discussion. We reflect on the kinds of research spaces which could have been more productive for a richer portrayal of Muslim women's agency. We then turn to our data to explore the complex entanglements of our participants' submission and agency, indicating the different ways female youth assumed, negotiated, and contested ‘subordinated’ identities.
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|Published - May 29 2020