Muslim Women and Fundamentalism

by Fatima Mernissi
published in MER153

When analyzing the dynamics of the Muslim world, one has to discriminate between two distinct dimensions: what people actually do, the decisions they make, the aspirations they secretly entertain or display through their patterns of consumption, and the discourses they develop about themselves, more specifically the ones they use to articulate their political claims. The first dimension is about reality and its harsh time-bound laws, and how people adapt to pitilessly rapid change; the second is about self-presentation and identity building. And you know as well as I do that whenever one has to define oneself to others, whenever one has to define one’s identity, one is on the shaky ground of self-indulging justifications.

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Tucker, Women in Nineteenth-Century Egypt

by Cynthia Nelson
published in MER152

Judith Tucker, Women in Nineteenth-Century Egypt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985).

This is more than a general treatise about women in Egypt. It is a subtle and adroit analysis of gender and class during the transformation of Egyptian society in the nineteenth century and it is this underlying theme that makes Judith Tucker’s work challenging reading. She provides an interesting theoretical approach in which both an anthropologist, used to working on women’s issues within peripheral, local community settings, and an historian, concerned with the social and economic history of women and social class, can find a common ground. “The history of women,” Tucker states in her introduction,

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Zionism, Anti-Semitism and Jewish Identity in the Women's Movement

by Ellen Cantarow
published in MER154

Zionism made its first entry into global feminist debate at the founding UN Decade for Women conference in Mexico City in 1975. There, during discussions of the introduction to a program of action for the decade, the conference passed wording that called for “the elimination of colonialism and neo-colonialism, foreign occupation, Zionism, apartheid, racial discrimination in all its forms.”

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A Separation at Iranian Universities

by Nazanin Shahrokni , Parastou Dokouhaki | published October 18, 2012

On August 6, with the new academic year approaching, the government-backed Mehr News Agency in Iran posted a bulletin that 36 universities in the country had excluded women from 77 fields of study. The reported restrictions aroused something of an international uproar.

Women, Medicine and Health

by May Haddad
published in MER161

Amira is explaining to some village women how to use herbal medicines that grow in their neighborhood. “I learned the skill from my grandmother when I used to help her harvest the wild plants,” she says. Amira describes the plants, carefully differentiating those for colds: babounij (chamomile), khatmiye (athea), na’na (peppermint), zatar (thyme); those for abdominal colics: yansoun (anise), krawya (caraway), shemra (fennel); and those for diuresis, shoushet dura (corn stigma), bakdounes (parsley), and bu‘atheran (millofia). She is also very precise with her instructions.

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Gender in Hollywood's Orient

by Ella Shohat
published in MER162

From its very beginning, Western cinema has been fascinated with the mystique of the Orient. Whether in the form of pseudo-Egyptian movie palaces, Biblical spectaculars, or the fondness for “Oriental” settings, Western cinema has returned time and again to the scene of the Orient. [1] Generally these films superimposed the visual traces of civilizations as diverse as Arab, Persian, Chinese and Indian into a single portrayal of the exotic Orient, treating cultural plurality as if it were a monolith. The Arabic language, in most of these films, exists as an indecipherable murmur, while the “real” language is European: the French of Jean Gabin in Pepe le Moko or the English of Bogart and Bergman in Casablanca.

State and Gender in the Maghrib

by Mounira Charrad
published in MER163

Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco constitute a geocultural entity. They all went through a period of French colonization and they became independent during roughly the same period in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Despite the similarities, though, the three countries engaged in markedly different policies in regard to family law and women’s rights from the time of national independence to the mid-1980s. Tunisia adopted the most far-reaching changes whereas Morocco remained most faithful to the prevailing Islamic legislation and Algeria followed an ambivalent course.

Sustaining Movement, Creating Space

Trade Unions and Women's Committees

by Joost Hiltermann
published in MER164

“Up here at the encampment,” said Abu Tha’ir, peering ahead through the windshield, “we cross the Green Line into ’48. If there is a checkpoint and they stop us, they’ll send me back to prison.” He looked at me as if asking for my opinion, but he did not slow down as we approached the army post perched on the hillside overlooking the road north of Tulkarm.

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Our Fate, Our House

by Sahar Khalifeh
published in MER164

Many Palestinian stories are the stories of sons: heroes or victims, Everyman or Superman. In the intifada, the rebellious young men, the shabab, have become the sons of all the people and their exploits legendary.

Sahar Khalifeh’s stories, like her own life, are the stories of daughters, mothers and self. This story about Umm Samih resumes Khalifeh’s exploration of characters from the northern West Bank town of Nablus which figure in her three novels, Wild Thorns, The Sunflower and the semi-autobiographical Memoirs of an Unreliable Woman.

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Women, the Hijab and the Intifada

by Rema Hammami
published in MER164

Many accounts have suggested that the intifada has enabled Palestinian women to make great strides toward their social as well as political liberation. While some positive developments have occurred, it is also true that the intifada has been the context for a vicious campaign in Gaza to impose the hijab (headscarf) on all women. The campaign included the threat and use of violence and developed into a comprehensive social offensive. Social acquiescence, political inaction, family pressure and a concurrent ideological transformation created a situation in which only a few committed women in Gaza, one year into the intifada, continued not to wear a headscarf.