Social Science Research Council Research AMP Mediawell

Introduction: Knowledge Production on Women and Gender in the Arab Region: Local Contexts

Joseph, Suad; Meari, Lena; Zaatari, Zeina

Critical analysis of what we know – and do not know – about women in the Arab region is needed to support social change. But how is knowledge on women and gender produced in the region? How does this change when it is undertaken by Arab women researchers? Through a critical examination of local fieldwork experiences, the contributors of the volume – who are Arab women researchers themselves – answer these questions. The book examines the specific structural conditions that shape people’s lives in the Arab region, from the effects of imperialism, settler colonialism and the neo-liberalization of economies, to racial capitalism, securitization, and embedded patriarchal ideologies and structures. The authors assess the implications of these different dynamics on undertaking research and also examine their own daily lives, the lives of their interlocutors, and the practices of their field. In doing so, they are able to escape hegemonic approaches and frameworks to the study of gender and to instead theorize from the local context to produce knowledge as they see it. This ‘engaged gender research’ challenges dominant discourses in academia, rejects the presumptions of ‘Arab exceptionalism’, and challenges liberal feminisms. It devises a new way of undertaking research on gender in the region to lay the foundation for a more just tomorrow.

Covering Morocco, Tunisia, Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Iraq and the Arab Gulf, the book argues that an engaged gender research – which is feminist and critically analyses the historical, political, economic and social contexts of the research topic first – will transform how we understand women and gender, and the Arab World.