Abu-Lughod's paper addresses the problem of power and how to define and track it through the resistance it generates. She inverts Foucault's assertion ( 1978) that "where there is power there is resistance" and uses her study of the resistances of Bedouin women to diagnose the nature of the power structure they resist.
Through her decade-long fieldwork among the Awlad ' Ali, a Bedouin group in Egypt's Western Desert, she is able to show how forms of resistance and power have changed with the encroachment of what she describes as "modern nonlocal networks of economic and institutional power." Using consumerism to resist their elders, young Bedouin women exposed to Egyptian national television and schooling also aspire to new styles of marriage that, ironically, may impose new forms of domination perhaps more restrictive than the old.
This chapter deals with complex and subtle issues, at both the descriptive and the analytic level. Abu-Lughod warns against the tendency to romanticize resistance. From the point of view of feminist concerns there is the reality that Bedouin women simultaneously support the traditional system of dominance by elder males while they subvert and resist it. Indeed they see their restricted women's world as a haven to be protected, not least of all because it is the institutional base for their often successful resistance and subversion of male authority. At the analytic level, this work is informed by subtleties of thought about issues of power that are the legacy of decades of study by behavioral scientists.