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DECO 23A06 - Women in the contemporary Middle East : The private, the public and the in-between

Type d'enseignement : Seminar

Semester : Spring 2018-2019

Number of hours : 24

Language of tuition : English



Course Description

“Women” occupy a considerable portion of political and mainstream media discourses on the Middle East. Representations vary greatly from images of “oppressed subjugated females” on one side to “celebrated warriors” on the other; between the emancipatory tendencies of modernizing agendas, and cultural/religious-specific justifications of domination, the “women question” is indeed highly politicized in national, regional and international contexts. The aim of this course is to move beyond the modernist/traditionalist binary and the representations of the “Middle Eastern woman” in order to critically and systematically examine a number of topics and issues that have come to be associated with “Women” in this region. Starting from a preliminary differentiation between of the private/personal and the public/collective, the course covers topics ranging from feminist movements, gender-based activism, and the place of women in political organizations and social movements, to marriage laws, religiosity, domestic work and norms of gender roles and sexuality. The course also tackles a number of issues that figure as “in-between” the private and the public such as sexual harassment and politicization of bodies. Mobilizing the rich scholarly material on women and gender in the region, namely comparative ethnographic work, the purpose is to situate those topics historically, follow their transformations and study the actors pushing forth women's issues, the angles and narratives framing each of those issues, the related policies and the resulting tensions. Moreover, additional material such as movies, literature, biographies and legal documents, will pave the way for a critical examination of the representations and to unpack the multiple discourses associated with such topics and issues. Finally, this course seeks to highlight the recurrent patterns found in different countries on the region all while highlighting the specificities that vary from one country to another, and, more importantly, within the socio-economic, religious and ethnic boundaries in each country.


RAMZY, Farah (Teaching Fellow)

Pedagogical format

1. How to study women in the Middle East: beyond emancipation, reductions and generalization Fighting for rights 2. Mapping feminist and gender-based activism in the region 3. Paradigms of Islamist feminism Women and the street 4. Sexual harassment: construction of a “public problem” and the struggles against it 5. Women in social movements: the power of bodies and reclaiming the public space Feminine religiosity: the private, the public and the political 6. The question of the veil: beyond submission and resistance 7. “Politics of piety”: Women in religious movements Homes, Private and personal lives 8. Love, marriage and divorce: between laws, norms and religions 9. Who takes care of the home: unpacking domesticity, child care and domestic work Beyond women: Bodies, gender and sexuality 10. “Tomboys” and male romance: queer representation in cultural production 11. Masculinity: representations and crises 12. Education, religion and culture: the making and breaking of social norms about sexuality

Course validation

1- Participation [10%] Either directly in class discussions or by taking notes and asking questions on the colleagues' presentations. 2- Weekly preparation sheet [20%] The aim of this assignment is to have a written trace of pre-class preparation, it also aims to train students to summarize academic articles and to write concise elements of reflection and discussion. The preparation sheet consists of 1 page only and should include the following; • Short summary [one paragraph] of the main reading (make sure to be as distant as possible from the abstracts accompanying published articles: use your own words to express the ideas you got from reading the text) • Comments, written in the form of brief bullet points. • Preparation sheets should be handed in every week on the day of the corresponding class. 3- Presentation [20%] Done in groups of 2, the aim of this exercise is to present overview of sub topics in line with the general theme of each session. Students are free to choose their topics (however, a list of suggestions will also be provided). 4- Final Exam [50%]: 2-hour exam, to be held in May, details tbc

Additional required reading

  • Abu-Lughod, Lila, and Rabab El-Mahdi. "Beyond the" woman question" in the Egyptian revolution." Feminist Studies 37, no. 3 (2011): 683-691.
  • Amar, Paul. "Middle East masculinity studies: Discourses of “men in crisis,” industries of gender in revolution." Journal of Middle East Women's Studies 7, no. 3 (2011): 36-70.