Arab Feminism in Periods of Transition

Episode 335

Download the podcast
Feed | iTunes | GooglePlay | SoundCloud

In this episode, we uncover histories of feminist writing and activism in the Modern Middle East, asking how women's textual production and activism changed over the twentieth century and looking at new directions in research on the history of women and feminism in the region. In the first half of the episode, Marilyn Booth introduces us to feminist writer and biographer Zeinab Fawwaz, who transformed women's writing in 1890s Egypt. We show how central questions of gender, marriage, and girls' education were to discussions about society and nation after the British occupation of Egypt in 1882 and through the first decades of the twentieth century. In the second half of the episode, Nova Robinson discusses her research on Nour Hammada, a women's activist from interwar Lebanon who argued for an "Eastern" or "Arab" women's rights framework. At the end, we come together to think about the new avenues of inquiry shaping Middle East history and the history of women and gender in the region.

Stream via SoundCloud 

Contributor Bios

Marilyn Booth is the Khalid bin Abdullah al-Saud Professor in the Study of the Contemporary Arab World at Oxford University. She is a well-known translator and author of many works, most recently Classes of Ladies of Cloistered Spaces: Writing Feminist History through Biography in Fin-de-Siècle Egypt, out from Edinburgh University Press in 2015.
Nova Robinson is an Assistant Professor of History and International Studies at Seattle University. Her research is situated at the intersection of women's history, Middle Eastern history, and the history of international governance. She is presently working on her manuscript, "Truly Sisters": Syrian and Lebanese Women's Transnational Activist Networks, 1910-1955. Recent articles have been published in the International Journal of Middle East Studies and the Journal of Middle East Women's Studies.
Seçil Yılmaz received her PhD degree in History from the Graduate Center, CUNY with her dissertation entitled "Love in the Time of Syphilis: Medicine and Sex in the Ottoman Empire, 1860-1922." She is currently a Mellon postdoctoral fellow at the Society for the Humanities and Near Eastern Studies at Cornell University.
Susanna Ferguson is a Ph.D. Candidate in Middle Eastern History at Columbia University. She is currently working on a dissertation entitled "Tracing Tarbiya: Women, Gender and Childrearing in Egypt and Lebanon, 1865-1939."


Episode No. 335
Release Date: 8 October 2017
Recording Location: Hofstra University
Audio editing by Chris Gratien
Music: from - Katibim (Uskudar'a Gider iken) - Safiye Ayla; Baglamamin Dugumu - Necmiye Ararat and Muzaffer; from Excavated Shellac - Munira al-Mahdiyya – Aldahre Kataâ Awsali
Bibliography courtesy of Nova Robinson and Susanna Ferguson

Select Bibliography

Baron, Beth. The Women's Awakening in Egypt: Culture, Society, and the Press. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997.

Bier, Laura. Revolutionary Womanhood: Feminisms, Modernity, and the State in Nasser's Egypt. Stanford University Press, 2011

Booth, Marilyn. May Her Likes Be Multiplied: Biography and Gender Politics in Egypt. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001.

----- Classes of Ladies of Cloistered Spaces: Writing Feminist History Through Biography in Fin-de-Siecle Egypt. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.

Dubois, Ellen Carol and Haleh Emrani, "A Speech by Nour Hamada: Tehran, 1932" Journal of Middle East Women's Studies 4.1 (Winter 2008): 109-124.

Pollard, Lisa. Nurturing the Nation: The Family Politics of Modernizing, Colonizing, and Liberating Egypt, 1805-1923. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005.

Robinson, Nova. "Arab Internationalism and Gender: Perspectives from the Third Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, 1949." International Journal of Middle East Studies 48.3 (Aug 2016): 578-583.

Rupp, Leila. Worlds of Women: The Making of an International Women's Movement. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997.

Thompson, Elizabeth. Colonial Citizens. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000.

Weber, Charlotte, "Between Nationalism and Feminism: The Eastern Women's Congresses of 1930 and 1932." Journal of Middle East Women's Studies, 4:1 (Winter 2008): 83-106.

Zachs, Fruma, and Sharon Halevi. Gendering Culture in Greater Syria: Intellectuals and Ideology in the Late Ottoman Period. New York: I.B. Tauris, 2015.


Ottoman History Podcast is a noncommerical website intended for educational use. Anyone is welcome to use and reproduce our content with proper attribution under the terms of noncommercial fair use within the classroom setting or on other educational websites. All third-party content is used either with express permission or under the terms of fair use. Our page and podcasts contain no advertising and our website receives no revenue. All donations received are used solely for the purposes of covering our expenses. Unauthorized commercial use of our material is strictly prohibited, as it violates not only our noncommercial commitment but also the rights of third-party content owners.

We make efforts to completely cite all secondary sources employed in the making of our episodes and properly attribute third-party content such as images from the web. If you feel that your material has been improperly used or incorrectly attributed on our site, please do not hesitate to contact us.