Cover of The Stigma Matrix by Fauzia Husain
The Stigma Matrix
Gender, Globalization, and the Agency of Pakistan's Frontline Women
Fauzia Husain


January 2024
306 pages.
from $30.00

Hardcover ISBN: 9781503632370
Paperback ISBN: 9781503636057
Ebook ISBN: 9781503636064

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Excerpts and More

As developing states adopt neoliberal policies, more and more working-class women find themselves pulled into the public sphere. They are pressed into wage work by a privatizing and unstable job market. Likewise, they are pulled into public roles by gender mainstreaming policies that developing states must sign on to in order to receive transnational aid. Their inclusion into the political economy is very beneficial for society, but is it also beneficial for women? In The Stigma Matrix Fauzia Husain draws on the experiences of policewomen, lady health workers, and airline attendants, all frontline workers who help the Pakistani state, and its global allies, address, surveil, and discipline veiled women citizens. These women, she finds, confront a stigma matrix: a complex of local and global, historic, and contemporary factors that work together to complicate women's integration into public life. The experiences of the three groups Husain examines reveal that inclusion requires more than quotas or special seats. This book advances critical feminist and sociological frameworks on stigma and agency showing that both concepts are made up of multiple layers of meaning, and are entangled with elite projects of hegemony.

About the author

Fauzia Husain is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Queens University. Her work has been published in Signs and Poetics.

"This is an impressive, gorgeously written book that tackles a question of vital importance. Fauzia Husain situates stigma as a force that reaches from the historical colonial past, across decades of neoliberal global forces, and renders its micro-contextual consequences starkly in the intimate daily lives of women tasked with enacting the will of the state under incredibly difficult conditions."

—Erin McDonnell, Author of Patchwork Leviathan

"This remarkable and richly detailed ethnography explores how frontline women workers in Pakistan navigate the colliding norms of purdah and neoliberal economic policies. With a keen analytical eye, Fauzia Husain shows how cultural stigma is shaped, while also providing a novel and multifaceted account of women's agency. The Stigma Matrix is mandatory reading for anyone interested in gender and work in global contexts."

—Rachel Rinaldo, Author of Mobilizing Piety