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Nationalism, revolution and feminism: women in Egypt and Iran from 1880-1980

Al-Qaiwani, Sara (2015) Nationalism, revolution and feminism: women in Egypt and Iran from 1880-1980. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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The rise of women’s rights movements in the Middle East has a long, varied, and complex historical trajectory, which makes it a challenging area of comparative study. This thesis explores the development of notions of cultural authenticity and womanhood, and how women struck bargains with men around such notions, by looking at the rise of women’s rights discourses and movements in Egypt and Iran from 1880 to 1980. More specifically, it investigates how changing notions of ‘cultural authenticity’ and ‘womanhood’ affected the relationship between ‘nationalism’ and ‘feminism’, women’s relationship with modernizing states, and ‘female activism’ within revolutionary and Islamist opposition movements. 1880 was chosen as the starting period of this study to assess the modernist and nationalist debates of the late 19th century, which incorporated new women’s rights discourses in both cases. 1980 was chosen as an end point as the Iran'Iraq war, and the advent of ‘Islamic feminism’ debates over the next decades in both Iran and Egypt, introduced new factors and issues, which would not have been possible to assess properly within the scope of this study. The two countries were selected not only for their political significance, but because of key differences, particularly in terms of dominant language and religion, to help challenge generalizations about ‘Arab versus non'Arab culture’, and notions of a monolithic ‘Islam’, ‘Muslim culture’, and/or the Middle East. Differences between regional cases need to be highlighted to avoid generalizations and simplified readings of women’s histories. This thesis places its original contributions within existing historiography on women’s movements in Iran and Egypt, contributing to the wider debates on women’s histories and ‘feminisms’ in the Middle East. Its arguments contribute to existing historiography on women and nationalism, women and revolution, and women and the state in Iran, Egypt, and wider studies on Middle Eastern women’s histories.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2015 Sara Al-Qaiwani
Library of Congress subject classification: D History General and Old World > DT Africa
Sets: Departments > International History
Supervisor: Schulze, Kirsten and Sherman, Taylor

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