Conceiving Identities

Maternity in Medieval Muslim Discourse and Practice

By Kathryn M. Kueny

Subjects: Religion, Islam, Middle East Studies, Medieval Studies, Women In Religion
Paperback : 9781438447865, 404 pages, July 2014
Hardcover : 9781438447858, 404 pages, November 2013

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents

Introduction: Generating Normative Discourse
1. On Wombs, Women, and the Hand of God: The Bearing of Life in the Qur’ān
2. Mapping the Maternal Body: The Mechanics of Reproduction
3. Paradigms of the Good Mother
4. Postpartum: Making the Good Mother through Public Rituals and Embodied Practices
5. Mother as Monster
6. The Cure of Perfection
7. The Making of Medieval Muslim Mothers

Explores how medieval Muslim theologians constructed a female gender identity based on an ideal of maternity and how women contested it.


Finalist for the 2014 Book Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion, textual studies category presented by the American Academy of Religion

Conceiving Identities explores how medieval Muslim theologians appropriate a woman's reproductive power to construct a female gender identity in which maternity is a central component. Through a close analysis of seventh- through fourteenth-century exegetical works, medical treatises, legal pronouncements, historiographies, zoologies, and other literary materials, this study considers how medieval Muslim scholars map the female reproductive body according to broader, cosmological schemes to generate a woman's role as "mother. " By close consideration of folk medicine and magic, this book also reveals how medieval women contest the traditional maternal identities imagined for them and thereby reinvent themselves as mothers and Muslims. This innovative examination of the discourse and practices surrounding maternity forges new ground as it takes up the historical and epistemic construction of medieval Muslim women's identities.

Kathryn M. Kueny is Associate Professor of Theology at Fordham University. She is the author of The Rhetoric of Sobriety: Wine in Early Islam, also published by SUNY Press.