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New Book: Civil Society and Women Activists in the Middle East

July 13, 2012

A new book by Wendy Krause makes a case for the importance of women in civil society in Middle Eastern politics, especially in Egypt.

“Yeah, but where are the women in this revolution?”

Students have asked me this question since the beginning of the uprisings. I am always stunned. They are everywhere. How can you have done any reading on this topic and not see them?

I used to blame the media for perhaps not making women visible–although I’d be hard pressed to prove it; my own dipping into the media cesspool shows lots of representations of women.

In a new book, “Civil Society and Women Activists in the Middle East:  Islamic and Secular Organizations in Egypt,” Wanda Krause suggests that the problem may be that women are simply framed as seperate from, and powerless in the face of the state, and hence “invisible” to serious discussions. It’s a view the book sets out to dispute, not only in Egypt but throughout the Gulf states as well.

Krause is a political scientist, a professor at Qatar University and coordinator of its Gulf Studies Program. She got her PhD on Middle East Politics from the University of Exeter, U.K.  and an MA in International Relations from the University of Guelph, Canada. She is the author of a 2008 book on women in civil society in the United Arab Emirates, and has earlier published a 2004 paper on women in social movements in Egypt.

Here’s the book jacket blurb:

In the Middle East, and in Egypt in particular, there has always been a tendency to accord complete supremacy to the authority and might of the state, and to see “society” as a separate, powerless entity. However, after the uprising of 2011, this assumption was turned on its head. And it is the wide range of political activity beyond the remit of the official state where Wanda Krause locates a dynamic potential for political change from the bottom up. She looks in particular at the influential role of women’s private voluntary organizations in Egypt in shaping concepts of civil society and democracy. Exploring both secular and “Islamist” organizations, she offers a steadfast critique of the view that Islamic women activists are insignificant,”backward,” or “uncivil.”


Krause, Wanda. 2004. “Civil Society in the Democratization Process: A Case Study on Cairo Islamic Women’s and Secular Feminist Organizations,” Global Development Studies,(winter/spring): 221-50

Krause, Wanda. 2008. The State, Islamism, and Networks in the UAE. Palgrave MacMillan.

Krause, Wanda. 2012. Civil Society and Women Activists in the Middle East:  Islamic and Secular Organizations in Egypt. I.B. Tauris.

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