This book examines the position of women in the contemporary Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Although it is culturally diverse, this region shares many commonalities with relation to women that are strong, deep, and pervasive: a space-based patriarchy, a culturally strong sense of religion, a smooth co-existence of tradition and modernity, a transitional stage in development, and multilingualism/multiculturalism.

Experts from within the region and from outside provide both theoretical angles and case studies, drawing on fieldwork from Egypt, Oman, Palestine, Israel, Turkey, Iran, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, and Spain. Addressing the historical, socio-cultural, political, economic, and legal issues in the region, the chapters cover five major aspects of women’s agency:

  • political agency
  • civil society activism
  • legal reform
  • cultural and social agencies
  • religious and symbolic agencies.

Bringing to light often marginalized topics and issues, the book underlines the importance of respecting specificities when judging societies and hints at possible ways of promoting the MENA region. As such, it is a valuable addition to existing literature in the field of political science, sociology, and women’s studies.

chapter |12 pages


Contextualizing women's agency in the MENA region

part |63 pages

Reconsidering the Foundations of Women, Islam, and Political Agency

chapter |21 pages

The veil

Religious and historical foundations and the modern political discourse

chapter |14 pages

Assia Djebar and Malika Mokeddem

Neocolonial agents or postcolonial subjects?

part |25 pages

Women's leadership in civil society

part |44 pages

Women and legal reform

chapter |9 pages

Tunisia at the forefront of the Arab world

Two waves of gender legislation

chapter |15 pages

Feminism and family law in Iran

The struggle for women's economic citizenship in the Islamic Republic

chapter |18 pages

The legal status of women in Egypt

Reform and social inertia

part |124 pages


chapter |15 pages

Women in Turkey

Caught between tradition and modernity

chapter |16 pages

Perpetuating authority

Ishelhin women's rituals and the transmission of Islamic knowledge in southwestern Morocco

chapter |11 pages

Moroccan women contrabandists

Interferences in public space

chapter |12 pages

The Orient within

Women “in-between” under Francoism