Family in the Middle East: Ideational Change in Egypt, Iran, and Tunisia

By McDowell, Teresa | Journal of Comparative Family Studies, July 1, 2009 | Go to article overview

Family in the Middle East: Ideational Change in Egypt, Iran, and Tunisia


McDowell, Teresa, Journal of Comparative Family Studies


YOUNT, Kathryn M. and Hoda RASHAD (Eds.). FAMILY IN THE MIDDLE EAST: IDEATIONAL CHANGE IN EGYPT, IRAN, AND TUNISIA. New York Routledge, 2008, 269 pp., (h) $140.

This edited volume makes a significant contribution to the growing literature on families in North Africa and the Middle East. Through historical and contemporary comparisons of three countries - Tunisia, Egypt, and Iran - readers are offered sophisticated frameworks for understanding the impact of national and international structural and ideational forces on family life. Authors engage in critiques of Western frameworks of modernity and developmental progress as potentially colonizing forces, exploring the limits of applying Western critical family studies and feminisms to the Middle East.

The volume is divided into four parts, including an introduction and conclusion. In Part I editors set the stage for analysis of ideational forces on societal change by asking questions such as: "Have Western ways of understanding family ties and family change affected the perceptions about these human ties in Middle Eastern populations? [and] Have Western understandings of family also affected how people in Middle Eastern cultures understand themselves? (p. 3)." They challenge prevailing concepts of developmental idealism which assume universal movement toward Western family ideals and inevitable correlation between economic development and individualism, including elevation of modern nuclear family structures.

Contributors to Part II explore the development of critical Arab family studies in contrast to Western critical and feminist discourses on family, including an anti-colonial focus among Arab women's movements. Authors advance the introductory critique of developmental idealism and interrogate the impact of states, religious groups, and feminist organizations on the promotion of family myths based on select connections between family and nation. …

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