AN/WS - 336 Women and Culture in Spain and the Mediterranean

This course will introduce students to the social and historical construction of women’s roles in the Mediterranean region, from a cross-cultural and interdisciplinary perspective. Though the course places special emphasis on Spain, by bringing in examples of other Mediterranean countries it will examine if, in terms of the roles traditionally assigned to women, Spain shares more with Mediterranean countries than with northern European societies. Thus, though we will pay attention to existing diversities across the Mediterranean we will also highlight similar understandings of women and culture and how these understandings shape and are shaped by issues such as religion, politics, use of space, family arrangements or migration flows. As this course is a women’s studies course, it will focus on the conceptions of women in Mediterranean societies. Other gender roles, including LGBTQ issues are not a central focus of this course, and will only be touched on tangentially, if at all.

The course is divided into an introductory section, and four topics:

The introductory section provides a discussion of two key concepts: that of gender and its relevance to women’s studies; and the identification of Spain in the Mediterranean, both geographically and culturally. The course then introduces the debate about Western attitudes to women in Islamic societies, in the context of unifying cultural codes across the Mediterranean, with the identification of overarching visions of women’s roles within what is known as the “Mediterranean honor code”. In this way, the course identifies both the unity of cultural codes around the Mediterranean, and at the same time, the concept of the “other” in Western stereotypes about Islam.

From these foundations, the course goes on to introduce students to different fields in which women’s roles are created and recreated in traditional Mediterranean societies, comparing Spain to other societies – principally Islamic societies on the opposite shores of the Mediterranean: The discussion is divided into 4 topics:

Topic 1 introduces students to women’s roles in religion, on both shores of the Mediterranean.

Topic 2 broadly tackles the economy, introducing students to early women’s movements, as well as women’s roles in relation to the family, education and migration.

Topic 3 examines women’s roles in public and private spaces.

Topic 4 examines women’s roles in politics, and ties up the course by looking at early, and recent, feminist movements, and how these have tried to challenge the traditional roles and representations discussed earlier in the course. The course specifically discusses contemporary feminist movements in Islamic societies, which ties back into the debate highlighted at the start of the course.  

The course sessions will combine theoretical lectures, class discussions and debates based on the critical reading of assigned articles. The articles are a selection of key academic works chosen with the aim of providing a general understanding of how traditional women’s and men’s roles intersect with other aspects of social and political life in the Mediterranean. There will be also occasional screenings of films and field visits.

Course Information


Women's Studies

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