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DECO 23A06 - Gender and public policy in the MENA region

Type d'enseignement : Seminar

Semester : Spring 2019-2020

Number of hours : 24

Language of tuition : English



Course Description

This seminar aims to introduce students to the field of public policies in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region from a gender perspective. It will present students with contemporary research and major concepts on public policy, while inviting them to confront these theories with gender studies and area studies in the MENA region. The study of public action reveals a broad spectrum of political processes: the formation of states and regimes, the formulation of public problems, the implementation of targeted policies, but also the formation of social groups and their relations with public authorities. In the MENA region, social policies have been one of the main tools for building and legitimizing states during the post-colonial era. However, most of them are characterized by the prevalence of clientelist relationships and unequal access to the state according to social groups. Depending on states' trajectories, public policies have also been influenced by religious and ethnic principles. What is more, global trends such as economic liberalization, the growth of civil society, the role of international organizations or de-democratization patterns have contributed to shape public action in the region. This seminar chooses to explore this vast body of research from a gendered perspective. Women, despite their historically marginal position both in the political field and in the formal economy, have been the subject of often controversial discourses and policies. Women's role in the public sphere, women's employment, the family institution as well as gendered bodies, all major issues tackled by gender studies, are also central in Middle-Eastern policy-making processes. How do women access to decision-making in the MENA region? Do welfare provision programs target men and women the same way? How to make sense of women's under-employment rates in the region? Are neoliberal trends crossing the region gender-neutral? These questions will be addressed from the standpoint of political science, but we will also rely on works in the fields of sociology, history, economy and anthropology. Overall, this course will show how adopting a gender perspective can enrich our understanding of the state and public policy in various contexts. Far from adopting a top-down approach to policy-making that only considers Middle-Eastern women as states' targets, this course aims at providing students with an analysis of women's active roles, both as subjects and actors of public action in the region. Gender will be approached from an intersectional perspective, considering the interactions between sex, class, race and religious belongings in the encounter between social groups and the state. Finally, this course aims at deconstructing homogenizing conceptions of the MENA region. Readings and discussions will be based on diverse national cases, enabling students to understand both convergences and specific trajectories. Each session will be based on two readings that will enable students to build a dialogue between general political science literature and fieldwork studies in the MENA region in order to provide decentralized and contextualized perspectives on questions of political science usually discussed in the West. The course is divided in three parts. Part 1 provides a general introduction to studying gender and public policy, with a specific focus on women's diverse modes of participation into the political field. Part 2 tackles main issues on gendered public policies, from social welfare, employment policies and the regulation of informal labor, to the role of non-state actors such as NGOs and international organizations. Part 3 addresses the complex relations between state policies and the private sphere on three specific topics: sexual orientation, reproduction and violence.


AYMÉ, Prunelle (Doctorante contractuelle)

Pedagogical format

Part 1: Gender and participation to government, an introduction 1. Introduction: studying gender in the Middle-East, studying public policy 2. State feminism: absorption of a social movement 3. Women in office: between descriptive and substantial representation Part 2: Gendered welfare in changing states: actors, processes, targets 4. Gender and social policy: targeted benefits and limited protection 5. Gendered employment policies: incentives and impediments 6. Gender and informal labor: women's labor, the state's dead angle? 7. Empowerment through the market? Micro-credit and entrepreneurship in a globalized economy 8. Gender and the rise of NGOs: charities as social policy actors Part 3: Governing the private: sexualities, bodies and violence 9. The uneven recognition of LGBT movements 10. Reproduction and birth control as a public problem 11. War, violence and women: where is the state? 12. Conclusion: Comparative perspectives outside the MENA region + discussion of students' research papers

Course validation

1. One oral presentation in which students will analyze one of the topics mentioned in the syllabus. The presentation should be short (10 minutes), based on theoretical ground and relying on a personal and original research. Individual or in group depending on the number of students (30%) 2. Class participation reflecting the student level of involvement with the course, especially involvement in discussion of required reading (10%) 3. A final research paper (30 000 signs spaces included). The student chooses a topic among the ones listed in the syllabus or proposes one and elaborates a specific research question. The paper must be based on a clear argument, informed by personal empirical research and relevant concepts, theories and references (40%). Students will present the main findings of their research orally during last session (20%).

Required reading

  • Ingram, Helen, Schneider Anne (2005) Deserving and entitled, Social Constructions and Public Policy. State University of New York Press. New York
  • Karshenas, Massoud, Moghadam, Valentine (2006), Social policy in the Middle East: economic, political, and gender dynamics. Palgrave Macmillan UNRISD
  • Mahmood, Saba, (2011), Politics of piety, The Islamist Revival and the Feminist Subject, Princeton University Press
  • Tugal, Cihan (2017), Caring for the Poor: Islamic and Christian Benevolence in a Liberal World. Routledge
  • Waylen, Georgina, Celis, Karen, Kantola, Johanna, & Weldon, S. Laurel (Eds.) (2013) The Oxford Handbook of Gender and Politics. Oxford University Press