Women and Power in the Middle East

Women and Power in the Middle East

Women and Power in the Middle East

Women and Power in the Middle East


The seventeen essays in Women and Power in the Middle East analyze the social, political, economic, and cultural forces that shape gender systems in the Middle East and North Africa. Published at different times in Middle East Report, the journal of the Middle East Research and Information Project, the essays document empirically the similarities and differences in the gendering of relations of power in twelve countries--Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, Palestine, Lebanon, Turkey, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Iran. Together they seek to build a framework for understanding broad patterns of gender in the Arab-Islamic world.

Challenging questions are addressed throughout. What roles have women played in politics in this region? When and why are women politically mobilized, and which women? Does the nature and impact of their mobilization differ if it is initiated by the state, nationalist movements, revolutionary parties, or spontaneous revolt? And what happens to women when those agents of mobilization win or lose? In investigating these and other issues, the essays take a look at the impact of rapid social change in the Arab-Islamic world. They also analyze Arab disillusionment with the radical nationalisms of the 1950s and 1960s and with leftist ideologies, as well as the rise of political Islamist movements. Indeed the essays present rich new approaches to assessing what political participation has meant for women in this region and how emerging national states there have dealt with organized efforts by women to influence the institutions that govern their lives.

Designed for courses in Middle East, women's, and cultural studies, Women and Power in the Middle East offers to both students and scholars an excellent introduction to the study of gender in the Arab-Islamic world.


Suad Joseph and Susan Slyomovics

The Arab-Islamic world is a mixture of social classes, racial and ethnic groups, religious affiliations, nationalities, and rural, urban, and linguistic communities; any discussion of gender must first account for the tremendous diversity in the Middle East and North Africa. Essays in this collection address relations among gender, politics, and class in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, Palestine, Lebanon, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran, and Turkey. in this region, people may live in cities, provincial towns, and rural villages. Migrations of peoples from Africa, Europe, and Asia have brought about movements of ideas, values, and structures, and a mixing of peoples and cultures. the past century has been a period of intense upheaval, escalated change, and revolutionary transformation. There is no moment from the past that we can point to as a time in which Arab (or Arab-Islamic) culture was fixed.

Given this historic social and cultural fluidity and tremendous diversity, and the recent escalation of change, we have to be very careful before generalizing about gender issues or any other aspect of social organization, or assuming that these issues are the same across ethnic, religious, racial, national, regional, or linguistic groupings. With this caveat in mind, it is nevertheless possible to suggest a framework within which to understand broad patterns of gender in the region, even without asserting that they apply everywhere. Furthermore, with few exceptions, most of the patterns described in our introductory section are not uniquely Arab or Muslim.

Core Unit

The family lies at the core of Middle Eastern and North African society—in political, economic, social, and religious terms.

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