[P4760] Postcolonial Arab Feminisms: Past Meets Present

Created by Catherine Batruni
Sunday, 11/19/17 10:30am


With the emergence of postcolonial Arab nation-states, discourses and mobilizations around women's status were at the heart of competing nationalist narratives. Women were deemed 'bearers of the nation' in a political culture marked by struggles against European imperialism and a search for indigenous national identities. The feminist movements that developed amongst Arab women activists were thus embedded in the regional, intellectual, social, and political traditions that linked the 'woman question' to issues of modernity and nationhood.

Whereas Arab nationalists used women's political participation in anti-imperialist movements as an ideological tool to defend the emerging nation-states, most nationalists rarely considered women's rights a priority. Postcolonial Arab states established ambiguous legal frames such as family laws that both granted and limited women's legal and political rights. Nevertheless, the Arab feminist movements that emerged in the context of anti-imperialist struggles were not passive recipients of nationalist or communist discourses, as they actively advocated for women's legal and political rights on their own terms.

This panel explores the relationship between feminist movements and postcolonial states throughout the twentieth century and beyond in Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria. Collectively, the papers analyze the various trajectories and exigencies of feminist movements in these four countries, and explore the controversies surrounding women's liberation as promoted by different actors (i.e., feminist movements, states, Islamist groups, and others). The first paper examines how the 'woman question' in Egypt has historically developed into a contested ideological battle between the state, the feminist movement, and Islamist forces. The second paper questions why Lebanese women's achievement of suffrage rights in 1953 did not translate into women's political participation in the new state. The third paper analyses the legacies of two main trends of feminism in Iraq - nationalist and communist- and explores the way in which the post-invasion context has challenged these legacies without undermining them. The final paper unpacks Syrian government-sponsored print and visual media sources about women fighting on behalf of the Ba'th regime since 2011 to investigate the intersections of gender, sexuality, and militarized violence, reflected in the authoritarian regime's state project.






Tarek El-Ariss

(Dartmouth College)
Tarek El-Ariss is Associate Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at Dartmouth College. He is the author of Trials of Arab Modernity: Literary Affects and the New Political (Fordham University Press) and editor of The Arab Renaissance: Bilingual Anthology...
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair;

Tatiana Rabinovich

(University of Arizona)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Zahra Ali

Zahra Ali is a sociologist, her research explores dynamics of women and gender, social and political movements in relation to Islam(s) and the Middle East and contexts of war and conflicts with a focus on contemporary Iraq. She is an Assistant Professor...
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Catherine Batruni

(American University of Beirut)
Catherine Batruni is a Ph.D. candidate at the American University of Beirut in Modern Middle Eastern History with a minor in Women and Gender. She is currently writing her doctoral dissertation, which examines the role of the Beirut College For Women...
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Yasmin Shafei

(American University of Beirut)
Yasmin Shafei is a PhD candidate in Modern Middle Eastern History at the American University of Beirut. Her research has focused on women and gender constructs, paying particular attention to women’s history, Arab feminisms, dynamics of the Egyptian...
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;