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EWIC Reviews- Wortman

Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures

Reviewed By: Susan Wortman
Review of Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures: Vol. 4: Economics, Education, Mobility, and Space
Published by: Feminist Collections (Spring 2007)

Everyone these days - including politicians and journalists, both at home and abroad - seems to be busy trying to define Islam and women in culture. The fourth volume of the six-volume Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures (EWIC) is a welcome addition to scholarly research on this hot topic. As in previously released volumes, articles are arranged alphabetically by broad subject areas, then into more specific topics and geographic regions. While the depth of coverage ranges from approximately five paragraphs to five pages, the scope of subject matter covered is enormous. Articles include such topics as "the harem as space," women and information technologies in Muslim states, and the historical development of schools for African American students by the Nation of Islam. Perhaps it is the huge number of loosely related topics that makes this volume organizationally awkward and difficult to use.

Indexing is critical for such an allencompassing work as this, yet there are glaring omissions in this volume's index, making it difficult to find related articles. For example, the article "Cities: Homelessness" provides a brief but informative discussion on divorce and how it can lead to homelessness for Muslim women in South Asia. However, this entry is not indexed under divorce. Ironically, the article indexed under divorce, "Development: Housing Policies and Projects, North Africa," also talks about women's "vulnerability regarding shelter," yet that entry is not included in the index under homelessness. More cross-references would be beneficial. The article "Migration: Refugee Education" is indexed under migration, but there is no cross-reference to it under education.

It would also have been helpful if author names had been indexed and if authors' subject specialties and positions had also been included in the print version. EWIC does supply some of this information in a searchable scholar database on its project website ( other/EWIC_Project.htm).

Despite some weaknesses, there is much to recommend in this volume. It includes more than 340 articles, each with a bibliography, along with charts and statistics not normally found in other works. This fourth volume in the EWIC series draws from the expertise of an impressive collection of international authors, such as Deborah E. Anker, director of Harvard's Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program and Sakena Yacoobi, founder and award winning director of the NGO Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL).

This work is recommended for upper-level undergraduate and graduate research libraries. The sheer volume of authors and subjects covered would make it an excellent resource for research in a number of disciplines related to women and Islamic culture. Editor Suad Joseph acknowledged, in this work's extensive introduction in Volume I, the difficulties involved in organizing Volume IV by subject area, and this is evident. Brill, the Dutchbased publisher of EWIC, now offers an online edition of Volumes I-IV with improved indexing. This searchable electronic format only increases the importance of this work for scholarly research in many disciplines.-Susan Wortman

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