Making Muslim Women European

Voluntary Associations, Gender, and Islam in Post-Ottoman Bosnia and Yugoslavia (1878–1941)
$105.00 / €88.00/ £75.00
PDF version is open access (KU collection)
Publication date: 
April, 420 pages
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This social, cultural, and political history of Slavic Muslim women of the Yugoslav region in the first decades of the post-Ottoman era is the first to provide a comprehensive overview of the issues confronting these women. It is based on a study of voluntary associations (philanthropic, cultural, Islamic-traditionalist, and feminist) of the period.

It is broadly held that Muslim women were silent and relegated to a purely private space until 1945, when the communist state “unveiled” and “liberated” them from the top down. After systematic archival research in Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia, and Austria, Fabio Giomi challenges this view by showing: • How different sectors of the Yugoslav elite through association publications, imagined the role of Muslim women in post-Ottoman times, and how Muslim women took part in the construction or the contestation of these narratives. • How associa­tions employed different means in order to forge a generation of “New Muslim Women” able to cope with the post-Ottoman political and social circumstances. • And how Muslim women used the tools provided by the associations in order to pursue their own projects, aims and agendas. The insights are relevant for today’s challenges facing Muslim women in Europe. The text is illustrated with exceptional photographs.

Lists of abbreviations 





Chapter 1  At the Margins of the Habsburg Civilizing Mission

Chapter 2  Domesticating the Muslim Woman Question      

Chapter 3  Muslim, Female and Volunteer

Chapter 4  Calling for Change

Chapter 5  Putting Change into Practice

Chapter 6  A Taste for Celebration

Chapter 7  Unforeseen Consequences


Consulted Archives


"This work has the charm of a mosaic, of tiles collected with passion, and not simply from major libraries or national archives, but also from minor places, private institu-tions, and sources placed at the author’s disposal by individuals. Considering all the variegated forms of female commitment in the voluntary as-sociations, the book successfully challenges the Orientalist stereotype of silent and repressed Muslim women, instead describing how they began to study and to teach, to sew and to work, to write and to speak, even to dance and to sing in public and in mixed male-female settings."
"Le livre de Fabio Giomi sur les débats intra- et intercommunautaires sur « la femme musulmane » en Bosnie et la manière dont les associations musulmanes, les partis politiques, les réformistes et les traditionalistes musulmans ont puisé dans les mêmes discours et symboles transnationaux afin de lier la discussion de la nation à celle de la femme, sera d’un grand intérêt pour les spécialistes de l’ex-Yougoslavie et pour les historien.nes de l’espace post-ottoman et post-habsbourgeois en général. Il démontre clairement que les femmes musulmanes n’ont pas seulement réagi aux opportunités offertes par l’indépendance, elles ont façonné par leurs discours et leurs actes le discours genré sur leur nouvelle société."
"Knjiga Fabija Giomija dobro je osmišljena i temeljita studija o muslimanskom ženskom pitanju u kontekstu modernizacije bosansko-hercegovačkoga društva i rađanja kulture stvaranja udruga, pa time i važan historiografski doprinos."
“A well-framed, systematic investigation into what the archives tell us about Muslim women’s lives in Bosnia-Herzegovina between the end of Ottoman rule and the onset of World War II. Without romanticizing or downplaying the extent of control exerted on women by the prevailing gender regime of the time, Giomi's study shows in vivid, contextualized detail how Muslim women also did not conform to orientalist and Balkanist stereotypes of silenced, oppressed, and invisible figures. By highlighting these community and individual efforts at improving Muslim women's lives and educational access well before the establishment of socialist Yugoslavia, this book further breaks down the myth that the legal reforms and banning of the face veil by the Yugoslav state unilaterally ‘liberated’ Muslim women and the Bosnian Muslims as a whole."
"Making Muslim Women European is a unique approach in Bosnian historiography, the topic being previously approached only to a small extent, and overwhelmingly combines research into archival and printed sources, with most of them in the Bosnian Croatian-Serbian language but also in French and German. This work is an interesting gender research approach entirely about post-Ottoman Muslim women in Bosnia and Yugoslavia from the end of the nineteenth century (1878) to the beginning of the Communist regime (1941). In conclusion, this is a book that must be read."
“Giomi’s book provides an outstanding and original exploration of Balkan political and social history with an accent on the uncharted histories of Bosnian Muslim women. The author presents a unique narrative and engages with the complexities of everyday realities by paying closer attention to the role of non-state actors in shaping ‘the Muslim woman question.’ Through detailed archival records completed with primary and secondary sources, Giomi illustrates the historical journey that brought Bosnian Muslim women out of their traditional private context and demonstrates how women took an active part in articulating their own needs concerns.”
"Fabio Giomi legt eine Diskurs- und Sozialgeschichte des post-osmanischen Bosnien-Herzegowinas bis zum Ausbruch des Zweiten Weltkriegs mit einer ausgeprägten Gender-Perspektive vor. Er stellt überzeugend dar, dass Frauen seit dem Ende der osmanischen Herrschaft direkt in die sozialen Transformationen involviert waren und bosnische Musliminnen − wenn auch mit einiger Verzögerung − allmählich Zugang zur öffentlichen Sphäre erhielten.Somit liegt ein Werk vor, das nicht nur Kenner*innen der bosnisch-herzegowinischen /jugoslawischen Geschichte anspricht, sondern ebenso Leser*innen, die sich generell für Frauen- und Geschlechtergeschichte im post-osmanischen und habsburgischen Raum oder auch darüber hinaus interessieren."
"This book is an original contribution to the historical sociology of genderrelated transformations within the Muslim community in Bosnia between the end of the Ottoman rule and the beginning of WWII. Based on an extensive research into archival and printed materials in the local language, the volume reconstructs in vivid detail the lived reality of Muslim women at a time of profound political, economic, and social change. The history of Muslim women and the shifting discourse on gender relations"
"A well-researched scholarly contribution. It offers a unique perspective on the evolution of the ʻMuslim womenʼs questionʼ in Yugoslavia between the end of the Ottoman reign and the Second World War. At the same time, it offers an insight into their own voices as part of a broader discussion of what was considered European, modern and appropriate. It follows major political and societal changes and demonstrates Muslim womenʼs negotiation of their roles and image in Bosnian society,"