As the 2011 uprisings in North Africa reverberated across the Middle East, a diverse cross section of women and girls publicly disputed gender and sexual norms in novel, unauthorized, and often shocking ways. In a series of case studies ranging from Tunisia’s 14 January Revolution to the Taksim Gezi Park protests in Istanbul, the contributors to Freedom without Permission, edited by Frances S. Hasso and Zakia Salime, reveal the centrality of the intersections between body, gender, sexuality, and space to these groundbreaking events.
Essays include discussions of the blogs written by young women in Egypt, the Women2Drive campaign in Saudi Arabia, the reintegration of women into the public sphere in Yemen, the sexualization of female protesters encamped at Bahrain’s Pearl Roundabout, and the embodied, performative, and artistic spaces of Morocco’s 20 February Movement.
Conceiving of revolution as affective, embodied, spatialized, and aesthetic forms of upheaval and transgression, the contributors to Freedom without Permission show how women activists imagined, inhabited, and deployed new spatial arrangements that undermined the public-private divisions of spaces, bodies, and social relations, continuously transforming them through symbolic and embodied transgressions.
Hasso and Salime join other scholars in the special forum “The Politics of Feminist Politics,” published in a recent issue of Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East (volume 35, issue 3), to explore further the vexed political terrain of feminism in the twenty-first century.
The essays in this forum span a wide range of sites in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia. “Scandals of Seduction and the Seductions of Scandal” investigates violence, Muslim women, and legal judgments on rape in Bangladesh, while “Reading Malala” looks at girls’ rights through a close reading of the 2013 memoir I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban. The issue also features examinations of the First Ladies in the neoliberal Arab world, specifically Queen Rania of Jordan and Asma al-Assad of Syria; body politics and revolution in Tunisia and Egypt; the Personal Status Code and the precarious status of women’s rights in Syria; the participation of women in popular Islamist movements such as the Tunisian Resistance Movement (Ennahda) in the aftermath of the Arab Spring; and power, policing, and the sexed body in post-2011 Tahrir.
As Lila Abu-Lughod writes in her introduction, “These essays track the everyday languages and institutions of governance, policing, and morality by working carefully through such diverse fields as legal cases and legal reasoning, histories of education, dynamics of marriage, arts of linguistic transformation, politics of religious argument, legitimations of state power, and political economies of labor and housing.”