SOAS University of London

Centre for Gender Studies

Gender, Protest, and Revolution in the Middle East

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Taught in:
Term 1

The aim of this interdisciplinary module is to equip students with the critical skills needed to think about and discuss gender and sexuality in the Middle East in ways that avoid re-inscribing normative assumptions about the region. Importantly, this module does not provide an overview of gender and sexual dynamics and norms in the Middle East. Rather, it offers theoretical, methodological and analytical tools for making sense of gender and sexuality-based oppression in the region that encourage and enable a move away from a culturally essentialist framework. The course is organised thematically around particular theoretical interventions, an engagement with which is essential for those invested in challenging widespread assumptions about the conditions of possibility for discrimination, marginalisation, oppression and persecution on the basis of gender and sexuality in the region. Students will think critically about the binaries between tradition and modernity, religion and secularism, and will interrogate the relationship between gender/sexuality and the nation, gender/sexuality and the state, gender/sexuality and the law, gender/sexuality and empire, amongst other topics, relating them to the Middle East via an in-depth engagement with context-specific narratives and scholarship.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

• Gaining an overview of key debates within the study of gender and sexuality in the Middle East;
• Acquiring a grounding in the complexity and diversity of gender and sexual dynamics and norms in the Middle East via an engagement with historical, cultural and empirical studies on the region;
• Learning how to challenge generalisations, stereotypes and problematic assumptions about gender and sexual dynamics and norms in the Middle East;
• Acquiring a critical understanding of a range of methodologies and theoretical frameworks employed in the study of gender in the Middle East;
• Critically evaluating a variety of sources relevant to the topics studied on the course;
• Articulating core themes of the course in the form of detailed written work and oral presentations.


The module will be taught over 10 weeks with one 2 hour seminar per week

Scope and syllabus

• Unpacking the Western Gaze
• Gender, Modernity, Islam
• Nationalism and the Family
• Structures of Patriarchy
• Masculinity and Anxiety
• The Islamic Revival and Pious Womanhood
• Gender, Sexuality and Empire
• Intimacy and Kinship
• Queering Middle East Studies
• Negotiating Queerness
• Histories of Subversion
• Queer Feminism(s)

Method of assessment

Assignment one (3000 words); 70%
Assignment two – Oral presentation; 30%

Suggested reading

Suggested reading
Yegenoglu, M. (1998). Colonial Fantasies: Towards a Feminist Reading of Orientalism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Abu-Lughod, L. (2013). Do Muslim Women Need Saving? Cambridge: Harvard University Press
Mikdashi, M. (2012). How not to study gender in the Middle East. Jadaliyya. Available at:
Abu-Lughod, L. (2001). Orientalism and Middle East feminist studies. Feminist Studies, 27, pp. 101-113
Badran, M. (1991). (2009). Feminism in Islam: Secular and Religious Convergences. Oxford: Oneworld
Tucker, J. (2008). Women, Family, and Gender in Islamic Law. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Ahmed, L. (1992). Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate. New Haven: Yale University Press
Brand, L. (1998). Women, the State and Political Liberalization: Middle Eastern and North African Experiences. New York: Columbia University Press
Watenpaugh, K. (2006). Being Modern in the Middle East: Revolution, Nationalism, Colonialism, and the Arab Middle Class. Princeton: Princeton University Press
Al-Ali, N. (2000). Secularism, Gender and the State in the Middle East: The Egyptian Women’s Movement. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Sehlikoglu, S. (2018). Revisited: Muslim Women’s agency and feminist anthropology of the Middle East. Contemporary Islam, 12(1), pp. 73-92
Jouili, J. (2015). Pious Practice and Secular Constraints: Women in the Islamic Revival in Europe. Stanford: Stanford University Press
Asad, T. (1993). Genealogies of Religion: Discipline and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Islam. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press
Inhorn, M. (2012). The New Arab Man: Emergent Masculinities, Technologies, and Islam in the Middle East. Princeton: Princeton University Press
Baron, B. (2006). Women, honor, and the state: Evidence from Egypt. Middle Eastern Studies, 42(1), 1-20
Pratt, N. (2012). The gender logics of resistance to the ‘War on Terror’: Constructing sex-gender difference through the erasure of patriarchy in the Middle East. Third World Quarterly, 33(10), 1821-1836
El Said, M., Meari, L. & Pratt, N. (2015). Rethinking Gender in Revolutions and Resistance: Lessons from the Arab World. London: Zed Books
Chapman, M. (2015). Feminist dilemmas and the agency of veiled Muslim women: Analyzing identities and social representations. European Journal of Women’s Studies, 23(3), 237-250
Hasso, F. (2011). Consuming Desires [electronic Resource]: Family Crisis and the State in the Middle East. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Joseph, S. (Ed.). (2018). Arab Family Studies: Critical Reviews. Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press.
Amar, P., & El Shakry, O. (2013). Introduction: Curiosities of Middle East Studies in Queer Times. International Journal of Middle East Studies, 45(2), 331-335
El Shakry, O. (2013). Rethinking Entrenched Binaries in Middle East Gender and Sexuality Studies. International Feminist Journal of Politics,15(1), 82-87.
Jarrod Hayes; De Groove Is in de Move: Decolonizing Sex and Sexuality in Middle East and North African Studies. Journal of Middle East Women's Studies , July 2018; 14 (2): 143–151.
Ikkaracan, Pinar. 2008. "Introduction: Sexuality as a Contested Political Domain in the Middle East." In Deconstructing Sexuality in the Middle East: Challenges and Discourses, pp. 1-16. Aldershot: Ashgate.
Ze'Evi, D. (2005). Hiding Sexuality: The Disappearance of Sexual Discourse in the Late Ottoman Middle East. Social Analysis, 49(2), 34-53
PEIRCE, L. (2009). Writing Histories of Sexuality in the Middle East. The American Historical Review, 114(5), 1325-1339.
Uhlmann, A. J. (2005). Introduction: reflections on the study of sexuality in the Middle East and North Africa. Social Analysis, 49(2), 3-15
Amer, S. (2012). Naming to Empower: Lesbianism in the Arab Islamicate World Today. Journal of Lesbian Studies, 16(4), 381-397
Massad, J. (2002). Re-Orienting Desire: The Gay International and the Arab World. Public Culture, 14(2), 361-386
Sinan Goknur; Queer Imaginaries: Tensions in Academic and Activist Frames. Journal of Middle East Women's Studies 1 November 2015; 11 (3): 331–336.
Puar, Jasbir (2013). Rethinking Homonationalism. International Journal of Middle East Studies 45: 336–339


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules