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Kuppinger published in book on women, encyclopedia of waste

Monmouth College professor of anthropology and sociology Petra Kuppinger has had a pair of rather diverse items published this year – a chapter in the book “Women, Leadership and Mosques: Changes in Contemporary Islamic Authority” and an entry in the “Encyclopedia of Consumption and Waste: The Social Science of Garbage.”

Titled “Women, Leadership, and Participation in Mosques and Beyond: Notes from Stuttgart, Germany,” Kuppinger’s chapter came out of a small workshop she attended three years ago at Oxford University. The organizers wanted to address a lack of literature and debate about women and leadership in contemporary Islamic contexts, mosques and theology at large.

“My chapter probes into the complex roles of women in German mosques and, increasingly, other pious groups that meet in diverse public spaces or venues,” said Kuppinger. “I argue that leadership in a Muslim minority society is not limited to theological issues, but very importantly also includes elements of cultural and religious mediation and translation. Women in these contexts critically engage both mainstream German society but also the established patterns and structures of local mosques that often reflect patriarchal cultural elements.”

According to the publisher, “Women, Leadership and Mosques” investigates the diverse range of female religious leadership present in several continents, with chapters discussing its emergence, the limitations placed upon it and its wider impact, as well as the physical and virtual spaces used by women to establish and consolidate their authority. They predict that it will be “invaluable” as a reference text, as it is the first to bring together analysis of female Islamic leadership in geographically and ideologically diverse Muslim communities worldwide.

While the book chapter was a scholarly piece, Kuppinger said her encyclopedia entry was more of a labor of love.

“I chronicle the unique waste management system of Cairo, Egypt, that is based on a unique organization whereby an entire class of (poor) private garbage collectors service most of the city,” said Kuppinger, who worked as a volunteer in a school in one of these garbage collectors’ community years ago when she was a graduate student in Cairo. “The collectors bring the garbage back to their ‘garbage communities,’ where waste is recycled. These unique communities have an amazing recycling rate of 80-85 percent, which is unmatched by any large-scale commercial system.”

She added, “I took considerable time to work myself into the literature and current developments among the garbage collectors for this piece. It was written before the current uprising in Egypt and thus does not refer to recent political transformations.”

“The Encyclopedia of Consumption and Waste” explores the topic of trash across multiple disciplines within the social sciences. Extending further to also include business, consumerism, environmentalism and marketing, the two-volume set was written by scholars from around the world.

“Our trash is our testament,” wrote the publishers. “What we throw away says much about our values, habits and lives.”

Kuppinger joined Monmouth’s sociology and anthropology department in 2000 after earning her Ph.D. earlier that year from the New School for Social Research in New York City.