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Mapping the Production of Knowledge on Women and Gender in the Arab Region

Countries in the Arab region are facing unprecedented political uncertainty and social upheaval. The war in Syria has created the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II. Wars and strife in Iraq, Libya, Sudan, and Yemen are unabated. The occupation of Palestine continues to devastate the social and human fabric. Lebanon teeters on the political and economic edge. The role of women, overlooked or underestimated, is central to these and other contestations raging in the region.

Women are pivotal social actors in every society. What we know (or do not know) about women influences perspectives and actions towards women at all levels -- from family and community to government policy. During this significant moment in the Arab region, an understanding of knowledge produced on or by women is a necessary foundation for any kind of social action – and vital to work related to gender equality and social justice. Dominant frameworks on international development, human rights, gender, and women have failed to integrate critical contexts and histories necessary for planners and policy makers to respond to changing realities in the Arab region.

This project will analyze the gender and women’s studies scholarly frameworks that have prevailed in the region in the last 50 years. By mapping the knowledge which has been produced in all key disciplines on gender and women in the Arab region, this project will establish a baseline from which major critical analysis and planning can emerge.

The goals of this project are to:

  • Provide a comprehensive overview of gender equality frameworks in the Arab region, as reflected in scholarship that has emerged from the region since 1970.

  • Understand the relationship between these frameworks and social, economic and political currents that have shaped the landscape on gender equality and women’s rights historically.

  • Support the next generation of gender and women’s scholars, practitioners, and activists in the Arab region through research and mentorship.

  • Expand dialogue and shared learning among civil society activists and practitioners at local, regional, and international levels to inform strategies on gender and social justice.

In spring 2018, the leaders of this project met for two two-day workshops in Beirut, Lebanon to plan the research agenda and develop funding sources to support this project.


Research Team

AMERICAN UNIVERSITY OF BEIRUT 

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Dr. Sara Mourad, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Media Studies and
Program Coordinator of Gender & Women’s Studies

Sara Mourad is an Assistant Professor in the Media Studies program. She works at
the intersection of media studies, feminist theory, postcolonial theory, and queer
studies. Her current research explores the role of media in the formation and
expression of sexual subcultures and identities in postwar Lebanon. It examines
gender and sexual non-conformity in television talk shows, literary texts, digital publications, and films to understand the shifting boundaries of publicity in contemporary Arab societies. Sara earned her BA in Political Science at the American University of Beirut and her PhD in Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. Her work has appeared in the International Journal of Communication, the Journal of Communication Inquiry, Critical Studies in Media Communication, and Jadaliyya.

Research interests: intersection of media, cultural studies, feminist theory, and queer studies. Her current research explores the role of media in the expression of gender and sexual dissent and the formation of queer and feminist subcultures and identities in postwar Lebanon. It examines gender and sexual non-conformity in television talk shows, literary texts, digital publications, and films to understand the shifting boundaries of publicity in contemporary Arab societies.

 

AMERICAN UNIVERSITY OF CAIRO 

Dr. Martina Rieker, Ph.D.
Director, Institute for Gender & Women’s Studies
School of Global Affairs & Public Policy

Martina Rieker is the Director of the Institute for Gender and Women’s Studies at The American University in Cairo. The Institute hosts an MA program in Gender and Women’s Studies in the Middle East/ North Africa with three specializations: Gendered Political Economies, Gender and Women’s Studies in the Middle East/ North Africa and Geographies of Gender and Justice.  Current research, with Hanan Sabea, includes Gendered Urban Precarities: A Knowledge Network (Cairo, Cochabamba, Georgetown, Ibadan, Mumbai,  Ramallah, Shanghai)  with York University (Social Science and Humanities Research Council (Canada) 2017-2023); Remaking Societies, Remaking Persons: A Supranational Forum for Memory Work with University of Western Cape, University of Ghana Legon, and Makerere University. (Mellon Foundation, 2018-2021).  Publications include: Handbook on Gender and Cities, Linda Peake and Martina Rieker, Editors (Elgar, forthcoming 2019); Rethinking Feminist Interventions into the Urban. Linda Peake and Martina Rieker, Editors. (Routledge 2012); Comparing Cities: Middle East/ South Asia. Kamran Asdar Ali and Martina Rieker, Editors. (Oxford University Press 2010); Urban Margins: Envisioning the Global South. Guest Edited Issue by Kamran Asdar Ali and Martina Rieker, Social Text 95 (2008); Gendering Urban Space in the Middle East, South Asia and Africa. Kamran Asdar Ali and Martina Rieker, Editors. (Palgrave Press 2007). 

Research interests: Critical geographies, Urbanism, Precarity, and Methodologies


AMERICAN UNIVERSITY OF SHARJAH 

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Dr. Nawar Al-Hassan Golley, Ph.D.
Professor, English Department
Coordinator of the Women’s Studies Minor

Nawar Al-Hassan Golley is Professor in literary and cultural theory and gender and women's studies at the American University of Sharjah, UAE. Al-Hassan Golley is the author of, Reading Arab Women's Autobiographies. Shahrazad Tells her Story (Texas University Press: 2003), editor of Arab Women's Lives Retold. Exploring Identity Through Writing (Syracuse University Press: 2007), co-editor of Mapping Arab Women’s Movements: A Century of Transformations from Within (American University in Cairo Press: 2012) and Guest Editor of HAWWA: Journal of Women of the Middle East and the Islamic World‘s Beyond Boundaries: Exploring Arab Women’s Autobiographical Narratives (Dec. 2014). Al-Hassan Golley is the founding Director of the United Arab Emirates Gender and Women’s Studies Consortium and organizer of its first conference on Gender and Women’s Studies in the Arab Region (March 7-9, 2012). She has organized several international conferences and has presented many papers at international conferences such as the Berkshire on the History of Women, National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) and the Middle East Studies Association (MESA). She has published book chapters and articles in prestigious scholarly journals. In both her research and teaching, Al-Hassan Golley adopts an interdisciplinary approach drawing on her research interests in Critical and Literary Theory, Autobiography Theory, Postcolonial Literatures and Discourses, Feminism, and Arab Women’s Writings. Al-Hassan Golley is a regular commentator on gender-related issues in the media.

Research and Training areas: Women’s writings; Self-writing; Postcolonial literature and studies; Feminist theory and women and gender studies; Gender and feminism in the Middle East; Women’s movements.

 

BIRZEIT UNIVERSITY 

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Dr. Eileen Kuttab
Director, Institute of Women’s Studies
Associate Professor, Sociology

Eileen Kuttab is an assistant professor in sociology and a faculty member and researcher at Institute of Women Studies at Birzeit University in Palestine. She is a founding member of the Institute of Women Studies and founding director from 1998 until August 2008. As a woman activist, she has been involved with grassroots women’s organizations and has served on boards of trustees of human rights and development research centers. Her recent involvement in research and advocacy focused on “Alternative Development: Social and economic rights as a realistic approach to development under colonial occupation." Her main research interests focus on the relation of feminism to nationalism, social movements and in particular the women’s movement, gender and development particularly women’s work in the informal sector and coping strategies, neo-liberalism and higher education, and tools for community empowerment through community based organizations. Her recent work in AFWG focuses on youth and political participation.

She is the first elected woman to head the Teachers and Employees Syndicate at Birzeit University in Palestine since 2011. A core member of the Arab Families Working Group, a collaborative group of researchers working on Arab families.

Research Project: Palestinian Youth: Construction of Desires and Imaginaries in Different Social Contexts

Research interests: Gender and development, Nationalism and feminism, Youth and social movements.

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Dr. Lena Meari, PhD
Assistant Professor Assistant Professor Department of Social and Behavioral Science
Acting Director, Institute of Women Studies

Lena Meari, was born in Haifa to a refugee family from Al-Birweh village. She has integrated in her academic training and research various disciplines including: anthropology, psychology as well as gender studies and development. She has taught and conducted research at Birzeit University and the University of California, Davis. After completing her PhD she spent a semester in the Center for Palestine Studies at Columbia University working on developing her PhD dissertation titled “Sumud: A Philosophy of Confronting Interrogation” which investigates the transforming colonial relations in colonized Palestine from the perspective of the interrogation-encounter.

Dr. Meari’ research interests are in the geopolitics of knowledge production, decolonized methodologies, colonial structures and colonial relations, the politics of sumud, revolutionary subjectivity, anti-colonial feminist theory, and critical approaches to the concept of development with emphasis on Palestine and the Arab World.

Research interests: geopolitics of knowledge production, decolonized methodologies, colonial structures and colonial relations, the politics of sumud, revolutionary subjectivity, anti-colonial feminist theory, and critical approaches to the concept of development with emphasis on Palestine and the Arab World.

 

LEBANESE AMERICAN UNIVERSITY 

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Dr. Connie Christiansen
Associate Professor, Gender Studies

Dr. Connie Carøe Christiansen is a visiting associate professor in Gender Studies. She was an associate professor at Roskilde University in Denmark and a senior advisor at KVINFO, the Danish Centre for Research and Information on Gender, Equality and Diversity, where she managed academic programs in the Arab region, including a program which established an M.A. program on International Development and Gender at Sanaa University in Yemen. She has published research on gender, migration and Islam in Denmark, Turkey, Morocco and Yemen. She has her M.A. in Cultural Sociology and Ph.D. in Anthropology from Copenhagen University, Denmark.

Research interests: published research on gender, migration and Islam in Denmark, Turkey, Morocco and Yemen. She has her M.A. in Cultural Sociology and Ph.D. in Anthropology from Copenhagen University, Denmark.

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Dr. Jennifer Skulte-Ouaiss
Assistant Professor, Department of Social Sciences

Jennifer Skulte-Ouaiss is Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at LAU. She holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Politics and International Relations from the University of Maryland, USA (2005). A specialist in post-communist politics, national identity and women and politics, she has published book chapters and articles focusing on return migration, elite politics and national identity construction in Europe and the U.S. She has taught in the US and Lebanon and has also worked as a researcher on issues of international development. She published a book chapter concerning women and labor migration from the Baltic States to other states in the EU and the impact of this migration on Baltic national identities in 2008. She has recently co-edited with Paul Tabar, a volume on the Lebanese Diaspora: Politics Culture, and the Lebanese Diaspora (2011). 

Research interests: post-communist politics, national identity and women and politics 

 

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, DAVIS 

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Dr. Suad Joseph, Ph.D.
Distinguished Professor, Anthropology and Gender, Sexuality & Women’s Studies
Faculty Advisor to the Chancellor

Suad Joseph is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies and   scholar of Middle East gender and family studies.  She founded a group leading to the establishment of the Middle East Section of the American Anthropological Association; she founded the Association for Middle East Women's Studies and co-founded its internationally recognized journal – Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies; she founded the Arab Families Research Group; and a six-university consortium. She co-founded the Arab American Studies Association and the Association for Middle East Anthropology.  She was the president of the Middle East Studies Association of North America, the main professional association for scholars of the Middle East.  She co-founded the Women and Gender Studies Program and founded the Middle East/South Asia Studies Program at UC Davis.  She is the recipient of numerous awards including: the UC Davis Prize for Undergraduate Teaching and Research, the largest such prize in the United States; the graduate mentor award by the Consortium for Women and Research, and the Diversity Leadership award and the Distinguished Scholarly Public Service Award by UC Davis.  She is General Editor of the Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures- the first encyclopedia of its kind, which Choice, the magazine for librarians, ranked as “essential” for libraries.   She has edited or co-edited 8 books, and published over 100 articles.  For the past decade and half, she has offered training in proposal writing and research design to young scholars in the Middle East, Europe, and the United States. 

Dr. Joseph’s research has focused on the relationships between religion and politics, family and the state, gender and citizenship, children and rights, and culturally specific notions of selfhood.

Research interests: Gender and citizenship; Family and child socialization; Family and state; Human rights and discourses of selfhood.


The Arab Council for the Social Sciences

Seteney Shami, Director General

Seteney Shami is founding Director-General of the Arab Council for the Social Sciences since 2012. She is an anthropologist from Jordan and obtained her BA from the American University of Beirut and her MA and PhD from the University of California, Berkeley. After establishing the first graduate department of anthropology at Yarmouk University, Jordan, she moved in 1996 to the regional office of the Population Council in Cairo as director of the Middle East Awards in Population and the Social Sciences (MEAwards). In July 1999, she joined the Social Science Research Council in New York (from which she is currently on leave) as program director for the program on the Middle East and North Africa (currently) and the program on Eurasia (until 2010) and the program on InterAsia (since 2008). She has been a visiting professor at University of California, Berkeley, Georgetown University, University of Chicago, Stockholm University, and the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study in the Social Sciences (Uppsala). Her fieldwork has focused on Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, and the North Caucasus. Her research interests center on issues of ethnicity and nationalism in the context of globalization, urban politics and state-building strategies, and population displacement and transnational mobility. Publications include the co-authored book (with Mitchell Stevens and Cynthia Miller-Idriss) Seeing the World: How US Universities make Knowledge in a Global Era (Princeton University Press 2018); edited volumes Middle East Studies for the New Millennium: Infrastructures of Knowledge (co-edited with Cynthia Miller-Idriss, NYU Press 2016);  Publics, Politics and Participation: Locating the Public Sphere in the Middle East and North Africa (SSRC Books and Columbia University Press, 2009), and “Occluding Difference: Ethnic Identity and the Shifting Zones of Theory on the Middle East and North Africa” (co-authored with Nefissa Naguib), in Anthropology of the Middle East and North Africa: Into the New Millennium, S. Slyomovics and S. Hafez, eds., Indiana University Press, 2013

 

 

Partnering Gender and Women’s Studies Programs

American University of Beirut (AUB)
Gender and Women’s Studies

American University in Cairo (AUC)
Cynthia Nelson Institute for Gender and Women’s Studies

American University of Sharjah (AUS)
Minor in Women’s Studies

Birzeit University
Institute of Women’s Studies

Lebanese American University (LAU)
Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World

University of California, Davis (UCD)
The Feminist Research Institute

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