MAAS-505 Women's Movements in the Arab World
Spring for 2015-2016
NOTE: This course will be taught in Arabic.
Women have been at the forefront of the “Arab Spring” where they played a key leadership role. The dynamic participation of women in the Arab uprisings culminated in the awarding
of the Nobel peace prize in 2011 to a female activist, Tawakel Karaman, who comes from a conservative Arab Muslim society, Yemen. This should invite us to re-examine the history of women’s movements within the Arab World.
This course aims to offer an overview of women’s movements in the Arab World. It will provide students with a conceptual framework that will enable them to understand the successes and
setbacks of various Arab women’s movements. It will also investigate the evolution of women’s movements in relation to the struggles for national liberation from colonialism/imperialism, and for political, socio-economic, and gender equality within Arab societies in the post-independence Arab states. The course will examine gender trends and women’s movements in the Arab World
by looking at women’s changing roles as family members, citizens, and national leaders. The course will evolve around several key questions such as:
• How do we define women’s movements in the Arab World, and are they different
from feminist movements in other parts of the world? Some argue that “any women’s organization can be called ‘feminist’ if it brings women out of the home into public life,
and teaches them organizing skills. Others would argue that only those organizations that explicitly call for gender equality can be qualified as ‘feminist.” (Rosemary Sayigh, 2003) How is this argument applicable to women’s movements in the Arab World?
•Is it more accurate to consider the rise of Muslim women’s activism as a reaction to the influence of western feminism, or as a part of the Islamic revival in the region that started
in the early 1980s and continues today?
•What are the results of these movements? Specifically how are diverse societal groups in the Arab World reacting to them?
The course will focus on contemporary Arab women’s movements with some reference to the historical background of the earliest of these. Students will be reading original materials such
as the writings of early women activists from Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, and Egypt, as well as
statements, interviews, news reports and publications from contemporary women's groups. Other essential sources for the course will include publications of women’s institutes including books and journal articles, and audio-video materials. Students will investigate different approaches
to assessing the role of women’s movements in the Arab World and should be able to develop original ideas and engage in critical thinking on women’s activism and their struggle for gender equity. This should be reflected in their participation in class discussion, their research assignments, and their in-class presentations and writing.
Selected Required Readings:
1. “Arab Women’s Movements.” Al-Raida Magazine: Published by the Institute for Women’s Studies in the ArabWorld, LAU. Volume XX, No. 100. Winter 2003
2. “Arab Feminism: A Critical View.” Edited by Jean Said Makdisi, Rafif Rida Sidawi, and Nuha Bayumi. Published by Center of Arab United Studies and the Lebanese Association of Women Researchers. Beirut. Lebanon. 2012
3. Ellen Fleischman. Jerusalem Women’s Organizations During the British Mandate, 1920s – 1930s. Published by PASSIA [Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs].
4. Additional Required Readings: Papers and chapters on the topic from various books in Arabic will be available on E-RESERVE/Blackboard
Other academic years
There is information about this course number in other academic years: