BA Politics and Arabic

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
The Politics of Women and Gender in the Middle East and North Africa

Course unit fact file
Unit code MEST20352
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


As well as challenging prevailing stereotypes about the women of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) as passive victims of their cultures and religions, this course will give students the opportunity to gain in depth understanding of women and gender in MENA. 

The course covers the history of MENA women in the context of Islam, Eastern Christianity and Judaism.  It examines gender inequalities, polygamy, veiling, adultery, the patriarchal family, property rights and violence against women.  It also studies the emergence of Middle Eastern and North African feminisms and the interplay between socio-economic forces, nationalist processes of modernity and women's political ambitions. It also investigates the discourse of Islamic Feminism; whether it is an oxymoron or a possible alternative to secular feminism. 

In the light of the recent uprisings in the region the course looks into women in the aftermath of the so-called ‘Arab springs’ and the prospects of change for women in MENA societies.


It is the aim of this course to: 

  • Enable students to develop an awareness of key historical and contemporary issues pertinent to the interdisciplinary study of Women and Gender in the Middle Eastern and North African contexts with the element of Diversity as a guiding concept. 
  • Debunk existing stereotypes about women and gender in MENA and equip students with a deep understanding of this study area by covering a wide spectrum of regions and subject matter.
  • Enable students to become familiar with a wide range of modernist and post-modernist approaches to the study of Women and Gender in MENA, learning to appreciate cultural representations and practices as part of power relations and gender inequalities.
  • Gain a comprehensive understanding of Women and Gender in MENA from a multi and interdisciplinary perspective.

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Relate their learning experiences to the social, cultural, and other dimensions which go to define gender in the global context in general and the MENA context in particular,
  • Have a good grasp of the theme of Women and Gender in MENA and appreciate the specificity of this region and its people,
  • Understand the element of diversity which underpins the study of Women and  Gender in MENA,
  • Overcome prevailing stereotypes about Muslim/MENA societies especially concerning Gender relations.
  • Demonstrate familiarity with the core texts and gender-related theories on Women and Gender in MENA
  • Have appropriate command of key concepts and terminologies related to the multi and interdisciplinary study of Women and Gender in MENA.


Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Relate their learning experiences to the social, cultural, political, and other dimensions which characterize Gender Studies in the context of the Middle East and North Africa.
  • Gain a good understanding about MENA women’s struggle, resistance and resilience in the face of religious and patriarchal laws 
  • Gain a good understanding of the workings of patriarchy and how it shapes gender relations 
  • Build awareness about the diversity which distinguishes MENA societies, their cultures, religions and populations and how this is reflected in gender relations.
  • Gain access to the study of a range of specialist areas within the discipline

Intellectual skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Develop their analytical and critical thinking
  • Gain skills in synthesis and analysis of data and information
  • Develop advanced skills of written and verbal communication
  • Improve their abilities of organization and expression of ideas

Practical skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Increase their discussion and debating ethics
  • Use library, electronic and online resources
  • Improve their reporting skills
  • Develop their group ethos
  • Engage in self and peer review/evaluation

Transferable skills and personal qualities

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Gain skills in independent learning.
  • Develop their abilities in co-operative learning and team work.
  • Develop their time management and punctuality skills
  • Gain skills in debating and presentation 
  • Apply Subject Knowledge 
  • Understand group dynamics and intercultural backgrounds in the use of negotiating skills to reach objectives.

Employability skills

Time Management and punctuality Presentation skills Critical thinking and analytical skills. Discussion and debating ethics Organization and expression of ideas

Assessment methods

Assessment task  

Formative or Summative 

Weighting within unit (if summative) 




Seminar presentation  



Resit Assessment

Assessment task  

Written examination  

Feedback methods

Feedback method

Written and oral feedback on seminar presentations

Written feedback on assessed essay

Additional one-to-one feedback: Lecturer’s 2 weekly office hours are the chief venue for feedback. This is a walk-in, i.e., no prior appointment is required


Recommended reading

  1. Ahmed, Leila, Women and Gender in Islam:  Historical roots of a modern debate, Yale University Press, 1993 
  2. Lazreg, Marnia, Questioning the Veil: Open letters to Muslim Women, Princeton University Press, 2011
  3. Mernissi, Fatima, Women in Islam: An Historical and Theological Enquiry, Blackwell Publishers, 1991 
  4. Salhi, Z. S., Gender and Diversity in the Middle East and North Africa. Routledge, 2010.
  5. Salhi, Z S., Gender and Violence in Islamic Societies: Patriarchy, Islamism and Politics in the Middle East and North Africa, London: IB Tauris, 2013


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Project supervision 20
Seminars 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 150

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Ruth Abou Rached Unit coordinator

Additional notes


  • The opening Lecture will introduce students to the module components in terms of content, assessment, weekly reading and tutorials. Subsequent lectures will be devoted to covering the detailed syllabus. 

  • Lectures will introduce the topic of the weekly reading which will then be discussed in the weekly tutorials. 

  • Readings will be distributed ahead of the lectures/tutorials, and uploaded to the blackboard. 

  • Students will be expected to come to their lectures and tutorials well-prepared and to participate vigorously in class discussions. It is essential that they complete all the required readings before the lecture/tutorial. 

  • Students will be expected to take notes on the lectures which will constitute additional materials to be used for revision for their written exam. 



  • Lectures will introduce the topic of the weekly reading, which is then discussed in the tutorial of the subsequent week.  

  • Students are expected to prepare the reading so that they can better engage with the lecture and contribute critically to the discussion of the compulsory reading in the tutorial group. 

  • The weekly reading assignments require regular work outside classes and in advance of the tutorials, including close study of assigned texts, note taking, summarizing or excerpting, as well as the creation of texts in note form. Readings will be contextualized and discussed during classes. 

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