Discourse on Gender/Gendered Discourse in the Middle East

Discourse on Gender/Gendered Discourse in the Middle East

Discourse on Gender/Gendered Discourse in the Middle East

Discourse on Gender/Gendered Discourse in the Middle East

Synopsis

In this book, Shoshan asserts that in contemporary Middle Eastern countries the "field of struggle" that cultures constitute provides the ground for contesting and transforming the hegemonic patriarchal discourse and recently began to give voice, especially in women's literature, to feminist critique. Examining the gender issue as reflected in a variety of discourses that take place in contemporary Middle Eastern cultures, the contributors explore how feminine images are constructed in tradition-bound societies and in the context of nationalist projects. Both Islamic societies in Middle Eastern countries and the Jewish society in Israel are addressed in the discussion of the role of women's writing and other means of expression in challenging traditional-patriarchal concepts, including nationalism. While the conclusion about the manipulation that patriarchal discourse performs on women's images supports the available scholarship, the emphasis in this volume on the specific expressions of femininediscourse will be a welcome addition to the existing literature.

Excerpt

The present collection of chapters is an outcome of a workshop on "Gender in Middle Eastern Societies," which took place in the spring semester of 1996 under the auspices of the (at the time not yet formally existing) Department of Middle East Studies at Ben-Gurion University. That workshop was concluded in January 1997 in a two-day international conference that focused on the relationship between discourse and gender. Some of the papers presented on both occasions are now submitted to the reader in a substantially revised form. It is rather regrettable that, for a variety of reasons, other papers that were part of the project could not be included.

This product of scholarly collaboration claims at least three peculiarities. First among these is its very approach and theme. Although "gender" is by no means a newcomer to the study of the Middle East, the combining of the two central notions of discourse and gender and addressing them in a series of articles that are concerned with the (mainly contemporary, as it were) Middle East, is less common. This book then has the purpose of telling something different from historical or sociological analyses of gender in the Middle East that have been available for some years now.

The second point worthy of notice about this book is that it is based on a somewhat different definition of the Middle East from that used in the scholarly division of labor and especially in the majority of publications on the region. While, as a result of disciplinary traditions, but perhaps for other reasons as well, one normally encounters studies of Arab or, more broadly, Islamic societies or cultures on the one hand, and studies of the state of Israel on the other hand, the two appear here side by side, with the result that four chapters have to do with the Palestinian-Jewish--later Israeli--one with the Palestinian-Arab, two with the Iranian, and one with the Turkish scene, respectively. The proportions and distribution in this volume is accidental, of course. But not so the underlying . . .

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