We will explore the conditions of Middle Eastern Women's lives, past and present,
from a multidisciplinary perspective, utilizing the findings of anthropologists
(archeologists and ethnographers), other social scientists (sociologists, political scientists, economists, etc.), and historians, as well as the remarkably rich, accumulating
literature by North African and Southwestern Asian poets, storytellers, novelists, and
authors of feminist tracts bearing upon women's problems from the late 19th century on. This
course will touch upon the following topics:
1. The pitfalls of sweeping theories of the "origins" of patriarchy, and of
"Oriental ism," a variety of ethnocentrism.
2. Gender concepts and relations in Neolithic Mesopotamia and North Africa, on the basis of what can be inferred from archeological evidence.
3. The rise of patriarchy in Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt and a comparison of its quality and intensity in both areas over time, based on translated historical texts and modern historians' interpretations of them, plus other archeological data.
4. Consolidation of "god-given" patriarchal ideologies and their transformations in early Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, based on translations and interpretations of sacred texts. Focus will be on Islam.
5. A brief consideration of the diversity of Muslim women's constraints, rights, and opportunities in various Medieval Islamic states—Arab and Ottoman, especially,
depending upon ethnicity (defined primarily by religious sect) and socioeconomic class in rural and urban settings, on the basis of historical research.
6. The traumatic impact of European imperialism and colonialization upon Middle
Eastern Islamic states, especially upon gender relations, from the 19th century through World War II, using historical research and literary works by Middle Eastern
7. Middle Eastern women's issues and concerns in the post-colonial period of nation-building, and women's contemporary struggle for economic, political, and civic
viability and equality within the family, tapping the findings of ethnographers and other social scientists as well as Middle Eastern feminist authors.
1. CLASSROOM PARTICIPATION (10% of your course grade, all students): This involves oral reports on two of the assigned readings, in which the content of the article/ chapter
will be summarized and critiqued in a presentation to the class,
supplemented by a one or two page double-spaced, typed outline, and in which the presenter will pose to the class
one question derived from the reading, for discussion.
2. TAKE-HOME MIDTERM EXAM (45% of your course grade for undergrads, 30% for
grads). It win test your understanding of topics covered through May 27th (as per the schedule). The exam will be distributed one and a half weeks before the due date and will contain two sets of essay questions; you will select one from each set, for a total of two essays.
3. TAKE-HOME FINAL EXAM (45% of your course grade for undergrads, .30% for grads). It will test your comprehension of topics treated from May 29th through June l9th (as per
the schedule). Exams will be distributed one and a half weeks before the due date. The
final also will contain two sets of essay questions, and you will select one from each set, for a total of two essays.
4. RESEARCH PAPER (Grads only, 30% of your course grade): This will be a 10 to 15 page
double-spaced, typed report, plus end notes and bibliography. Select any
topic related to this course that captures your interest and that can be handled adequately in the
above-specified number of pages. Consult with me before you
begin for ideas and guidance. Up to 5 extra points will be added to your grade for this paper if you present
your findings orally to the class on June l9th, when it must be submitted to me.
SCHEDULE OF DISCUSSIONS AND ASSIGNED READINGS [DATE TOPICS TO BE DISCUSSED AND READING ASSIGNMENTS]
May 6th INTRODUCTION. THEORIES OF PATRIARCHY. NEOLITHIC NORTH AFRICA AND SOUTHWEST ASIA.
(In LERNER: A Not on Definitions. A Note on Chronology and Methodology.
Chapters 1 and 2.)
May 8th CHIEFDOMS, STATES, AND THE EVOLUTION OF PATRIARCHY IN MESOPOTAMIA AND ANCIENT EGYPT.
(In Lerner: Chapters 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7.)
May 13th ANCIENT HEBREWS AND THEIR RELIGION.
(In LERNER: Chapters 8, 9, 10, and 11.)
May 15th ANCIENT HEBREWS AND THEIR RELIGION, concluded. EARLY CHRISTIANITY.
(In AHMED: Chapters 1 and 2.)
May 20th GENDER AND WOMEN IN ISLAMIC THEOLOGY AND LAW.
(In AHMED: Chapters 3 and 4. C.P.: E.W. FERNEA and B. BEZIRGAN-The Koran on the Subject of Women. In ESPOSITO: Chapters 1 and 2.)
May 22nd WOMEN IN MEDIEVAL ARAB SOCIETIES.
(In AHMED: Chapters 5 and 6.)
May 27th OTTOMAN MUSLIM WOMEN.
(C.P.: U.U. BATES—Women as Patrons of Architecture in Turkey. I.C. DENGLER—Turkish Women in the Ottoman Empire: The Classical Age.)
May 29th EUROPEAN IMPERIALISM AND COLONIALIZATION IN THE MIDDLE EAST.
(In AHMED: Chapters 7 and 8. Begin DREAMS OF TRESSPASS.)
June 3rd WOMEN, ISLAM, AND NATION BUILDING: ARAB WORLD.
(In KANDIYOTI: D. KANDIYOTI—Introduction; S. JOSEPH—Elite Strategies for State Building: Women, Family, Religion, and State in Iraq and Lebanon.)
June 5th ARAB FEMINISM: ISSUES, PAST AND PRESENT.
(In AHMED: Chapters 9 and 10. C.P.: V.J. HOFFMAN—An Islamic Activist: Zaynab
al-Ghazali; N. EL SAADAWI—The Mutilated Half. Finish DREAMS OF TRESSPASS.)
June 10th WOMEN, ISLAM, AND NATION BUILDING: TURKEY.
(In KANDIYOTI: D. KANDIYOTI—End of Empire: Islam, Nationalism, and Women in Turkey.)
June 12th WOMEN, ISLAM, AND NATION BUILDING: IRAN.
(In KANDIYOTI: A. NAJMABADI—Hazards of Modernity and Morality: Women, State, and Ideology in Contemporary Iran.)
June 17th WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
(In AHMED: Chapter 11; Conclusion. Begin GENDER AND THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN
June l9th CATCH UP. PROJECT REPORTS.
(Finish GENDER AND THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN CONFLICT.)
Since the mid 1970s, an explosion of scholarly literature on "Middle Eastern" Muslim
women has been published in many academic fields and in many languages. It simply is
too voluminous for anyone to master completely today. I have selected books, rather
than journal articles or chapters in books, written in English or translated into English
which cover diverse topics focused on Muslim or ex-Muslim women in many Middle
nations, as well as in various social locations within their nations. Many are
by Muslim female scholars themselves. I have read or perused all of these books
recommend them highly.
Unfortunately, many equally excellent books are omitted from this bibliography for
the sake of brevity. There are fine studies of Muslim women in virtually all Arab nations,
Palestinian women in Israel's Occupied Zones and in refugee camps elsewhere and
in Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan. Middle Eastern female immigrants in many countries
other than their homelands also have been studied collaboratively by scholars or given
testimony themselves (both scholars and non-scholars) about their lives.
Muslims have long lived in all parts of the world - subSaharan Africa, India, Central
Asia, China, Southeast Asian nations, and Indonesia (where there are more Muslims than
in all Middle Eastern nations combined).
Islam can be viewed both as an independent variable, shaping Muslims' thought and
behavior, and as a dependent variable, its interpretation influenced by believers' socio-
economic class, educational attainment and quality of education, ethnicity, urban or
rural backgrounds, nationality, and contacts with non-Muslims. Research into concepts
of Muslim masculinities are scant and sorely needed to fill out our understanding of
Abbott, Nabia (1942).
Aishah, The Beloved Of Mohammed. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press.
Ahmed, Leila (1992).
Women And Gender In Islam. New Haven, Cn: Yale University Press.
Afkhami, Mahnaz (1994).
Women In Exile. Charlottesville, Va: University Press Of Virginia.
Altorki, Soraya (1986).
Women In Saudi Arabia: Ideology And Behavior Among The Elite. New York, Ny: Columbia University Press.
Baron, Beth (1994).
The Women's Awakening In Egypt: Culture, Society And The Press. New Haven, Cn: Yale University Press.
Beck, Lois And Nikki Keddie, Editors (1978).
Women In The Muslim World. Cambridge, Ma: Harvard University Press.
El Saadawi, Nawal (1982).
The Hidden Face Of Eve. Boston, Ma: Beacon Press.
Esposito, John L. (1982).
Women In Muslim Family Law. Syracuse, Ny: Syracuse University Press.
Fernia, Elizabeth Warnock And Basim Qattan Bezirgan, Editors (1977).
Middle Eastern Muslim Women Speak. Austin, Tx: University Of Texas Press.
Grima, Benedicte (1992).
The Performance Of Emotion Among Paxtun Women: "The Misfortunes Which Have Befallen
Me. Austin, Tx: University Of Texas Press.
Haeri, Shahia (1989).
Law Of Desire: Temporary Marriage In Shi'i Iran. Syracuse, Ny: Syracuse University
Deniz, Editor (1996). Gendering The Middle East: Emerging Perspectives. Syracuse, Ny: Syracuse University
Deniz, Editor (1991). Women, Islam & The State. Philadelphia, Pa: Temple University Press.
Keddie, Nikki R. And Beth Baron (1991).
Women In Middle Eastern History: Shifting Boundaries In Sex And Gender. New Haven, Cn: The Yale University Press.
Mernissi, Fatima (1987).
Beyond The Veil: Male-Female Dynamics In Modern Muslim Society (Revised Edition).
Bloomington, In: University Of Indiana Press.
Mir-Hosseine, Ziba (1993).
Marriage On Trial: A Study Of Islamic Family Law. London, Uk: I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd,
Sharawi, Huda (1986).
Harem Years: The Memoirs Of An Egyptian Feminist (1879-1924). Translated, Edited,
And Introduced By Margot Badran. London: Virago Press.
Zuhur, Sherifa (1992).
Islamist Gender Ideology In Contemporary Egypt. Albany, Ny: State University Of
New York Press.
In spite of myself, I think I may agree to an
Almost everyone I know -- friends, teachers, co-workers -- expects me, as a child of the West, to reject the notion of arranged marriage, to proclaim my independence loudly. Sometimes, I still expect that, too. But as a young Muslim woman, I also expect myself to accept the obligations I have as my parents' daughter -- regardless of the emotional cost to me.
Pakistani culture and Islam beckon me with security, familiarity and ease. By agreeing to an arranged marriage, I could more easily satisfy my religious obligation to abstain from intimacy with the opposite sex until marriage -- not an easy feat, may I say. I would be participating in the ceremony of a culture 11,000 miles removed, a ceremony I've witnessed only twice. By doing so, I could spare my parents the stinging criticism they would face if their daughter chose her own path: barbs from three generations of extended family, all of whom accepted their own arranged marriages without argument -- and some of whom complain about them to this day.
At the same time, Pakistani culture repels me with its expectation that I adhere to a tradition that essentially advocates handing me over to a man for safekeeping. From the endless gossip of aunts, uncles, cousins and friends, I know the courtship ritual well. I will briefly meet my parents' choices and pick those who interest me. With each man, after perhaps a month of chaperoned dating, phone calls, no physical contact and little understanding of whether we would mesh, I am supposed to decide whether to marry him.