Friday, November 4, 2011
CUNY Graduate Center • 365 Fifth Avenue
English Department Lounge • Room 4409
Wine and cheese reception following the talk
Marion Katz, New York University
Sex as a Marital Right and Duty in Islamic Law
It has long been widely argued, by Muslim feminists as well as academic historians, that Islamic law recognizes a woman's right to sexual intercourse as an entitlement of the marital relationship. More recently, it has been demonstrated that in early Islamic legal texts, marital sex is conceptualized as a male right and a female duty within a asymmetrical and gendered set of marital obligations. This paper examines the arguments of some later Islamic scholars, working in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries C.E., who offered interpretations of the marital relationship newly emphasizing that the entitlement to sexual contact was gender-neutral and reciprocal. This conceptual reconfiguration involved rethinking the roles of sex and domestic labor within a marital relationship that they continued to envision as gendered and hierarchical, a shift that affected their understanding of the roles of concubines as well as wives.
Sara McDougall, John Jay College
In medieval western Europe rules for the sexual conduct of married Christians included both prohibitions and requirements for lawful sexual activity. Canon law demanded that husbands and wives alike have sexual relations only with each other. If prohibited from extramarital relationships spouses were not only encouraged but required to have sex whenever a spouse asked for what is known as the marital debt or duty. Canon law condemned adultery and required the marital debt largely in gender-neutral terms. If some canonists and especially theologians considered female adultery a worse offense than male adultery, other canonists urged the contrary, arguing that men, as the responsible sex, should be held to higher standards. When addressing the marital debt, canonists presented this obligation in starkly equal terms. Gender played no role in the rules for how and when the debt should be rendered. We might expect that these gender neutral principles, when applied, treated men and women quite differently. My paper will address the application of these rules by the bishop's court of Troyes, in Northeastern France.
Miriam Shadis, Ohio University
Protected Sex: secular concubinage in theory, contract, and practice in Medieval Iberia
Scholars have written at length on the theory and practice of medieval concubinage, especially when it comes to the early middle ages, and when it comes to clerical concubinage (and its fraught cousin, clerical marriage.) I turn my attention to what I call “political sex work,” and examine the actual practice of barraganía, or concubinage at the royal courts of twelfth and thirteenth century Iberia, considering the legal expectations surrounding the relationship of the king and his concubine, and the protected status of their real and potential offspring. In particular, I am considering the idea of a “contract” related to this practice, and thinking about it comparatively to the Iberian arras, or dower agreement, given to Iberian women by their husbands well into the thirteenth century.
We hope to see you there!