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Governing the personal: family law and women's subjectivity in post-conflict Lebanon

Mansour, Nisrine (2014) Governing the personal: family law and women's subjectivity in post-conflict Lebanon. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Family law in multi-religious settings poses a problem for gender equality. However, there is a need to learn more about the dynamics of this process and its effect on women's capacity for taking action. This thesis asks the following research question: 'How does the enactment of family laws impact on the ways women negotiate their personal relationships in post-conflict Lebanon?' Mainstream statutory and cultural explanations failed to analyse the gendering effect of family law for three reasons. First, these explanations dissociate legal frameworks from broader social norms. Second, they reduce gender equality to entitlements rather than outcomes. Third, they fix women's agency as static and one-dimensional. The thesis presents a broader view of the 'enacted' aspects of family laws and examines their impact as historically bound social institutions with a dynamic gendering effect. It uses qualitative research methods to examine the case of post-conflict Lebanon (1990-2005). Findings suggest that family law forms an order of 'gender governance' that sustains institutional gender inequality and restricts women's agency in three ways. At the judicial level, women's legal personhood is blurred in both legal texts and in judicial practice. At the normative level, women's subjectivity is confined within dominant gendered norms on family relations and womanhood ideals. Finally, at the level of social spaces for action, women are restricted in their individual and collective capacity for negotiating their rights. Hence, women's subjectivity is found to be composite and fluid continuously shaping various directions for agency beyond narrow western definitions of freedom. The thesis' main contribution is to argue for the need to engage more thoroughly with family law's institutional complexity and the processes of their enactment. The concept of 'gender governance' helps explain why women have so far been unable to organise effectively towards challenging or reforming family law. It also informs the complexity of citizenship in multi-religious settings by contextual ising the religious influence and framing it within political discourses on national identity and postconflict state building.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2011 Nisrine Mansour
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
Sets: Departments > Social Policy
Supervisor: Seckinelgin, Hakan and Lewis, David

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