Course: Gender and Revolutions: Rethinking the “Women Question” in the Modern Middle East
Female reformers and revolutionaries were at the forefront of many of the Middle East’s historic sociopolitical movements. These women, members of diverse classes, religious persuasions, and ethnic communities, played key roles in toppling dictators, unionizing workers, and challenging gender discriminatory laws. They refashioned the meaning of maternal citizenship during the formation of the modern nation-states in the early 20th century and continued to demand civil and political rights during the more recent Arab, Turkish, and Iranian uprisings. Yet the myriad theoretical and popular discourses underpinning emergent and longstanding women’s movements within revolutionary contexts across the region are frequently overlooked. Moreover, popular debates about political and social dissent in the Middle East and North Africa are all too often reduced to essentialist, ahistorical notions of Islam or simplistic theories of modernization. As a result, shades of difference in governmentality, interpretation, ideology, practice, history, and culture across the Arab world, Iran, and Turkey are minimized. This course will introduce students to key texts and analyses from scholars and activists writing on gender, sexuality, and women’s status in a revolutionizing contemporary Middle East. We will read works that better contextualize how women’s status is discussed and challenged by scholars, activists, artists, poets, and politicians from the MENA region and relate them to larger global studies on women and gender. We will ask questions such as “When is a hejab just a hejab?,” “Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving?,” and “What is an ‘Islamic Feminist’ and Should We Care?” Readings include memoirs, editorials, ethnographies, and political treatises, as well as historical scholarship from Egypt, Algeria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Palestine.
This course is capped at 20 students and enrollment closes October 19.