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Secularism, Gender and the State in the Middle East
The Egyptian Women's Movement

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Part of Cambridge Middle East Studies

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About the Authors
  • Nadje Al-Ali's book explores the anthropological and political significance of secular-oriented activism by focusing on the women's movement in Egypt; in so doing, it challenges stereotypical images of Arab women as passive victims. The argument is constructed around interviews that afford insights into the history of the movement, its activities and its goals. The author frames her work around current theoretical debates in Middle Eastern and postcolonial scholarship.

    • Comprehensive analysis of Egyptian women's movement
    • Challenges prevailing assumptions about secularism in Middle East, draws conclusions about post-colonial culture and attempts to break free from the traditionally-perceived East/West dichotomy
    • Accessibly written despite complexity of theoretical argument
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    Reviews & endorsements

    "Al-Ali has provided a thoughtful analysis of the Egyptian women's movement. Her ability to weave field interviews into her material makes this an original work. The book is a welcome addition to the growing scholarship on women in Egypt. It will also be a useful source for comparative studies of nongovernment organizations in the developing world." History: Reviews of New Books

    "...the book does a wonderful job explaining and providing a theoretical context for understanding the movement...the book represents a welcome addition to scholarship on women in the Middle East, international development, and globalization." Choice

    "sensitively researched and brilliantly written." Middle Eastern Journal

    "The individual articles are accessible to undergraduates while the entire collection would provide graduate students with an excellent summary of the best recent innovative scholarship on gender in the Middle East. This collection would work well for courses in anthropology, political science, Women's Studies, Middle East studies, or cultural studies.... Throughout the work, Al-Ali interrogates dichotomies that often figure in feminist analyses of women's lives: public versus private, universal human rights versus cultural specificity, the authentic or traditional versus Western imports, and East versus West. Part of what makes this book so intriguing is that she takes these discussions into new arenas that few other scholars have explored." National Women's Studies Association Journal

    "...the book sheds important light on the educated segment of the secular feminist movements in contemporary Egyptian society." Studies in Contemporary Islam

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    Product details

    • Date Published: January 2005
    • format: Adobe eBook Reader
    • isbn: 9780511034800
    • availability: Adobe Reader ebooks available from
  • Table of Contents

    1. Up against conceptual frameworks: post-Orientalism, Occidentalism and presentation of self
    2. Contextualizing the Egyptian women's movement
    3. Self and generation: formative experiences of Egyptian women activists
    4. Secularism: challenging neo-Orientalism and histories
    5. From words to deeds: priorities and projects of contemporary activists
    6. A mirror of political culture in Egypt: divisions and debates among women's activists

  • Author

    Nadje Al-Ali, University of Exeter

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