Gender and Society in North Africa and Beyond

You are here

Course Information
Gender Studies
Terms offered: 
Fall, Spring
Language of instruction: 
Contact Hours: 


Additional student cost: 

Field study transportation fees.


This course is designed to introduce the students to the problematic questions related to gender and gender issues in North African societies in general, but with a particular focus on the Moroccan context. It exposes students to foundational gender and social concepts, and prepares them to engage in discussions of key debates animating the field.

It asks students to examine diverse topics such as language, culture, education, politics, sexuality, youth, development, globalization and resistance in order to understand the formation of social hierarchies, privilege and gender inequality. We will read texts and articles, watch some videos, visit some women’s associations and discuss how gender, modernization and social change, affect North African societies.  

Attendance policy: 

Class attendance is compulsory. Each student will be allowed only two unexcused absences throughout the course. For each unexcused absence beyond this there will be a reduction in the final grade. Students who are late to class on a regular basis will also receive a reduction in their final grade and/or disciplinary action.

Students should not exceed 2 absences in each (45 hours) content course.
Students should not exceed 4 absences in the (90 hours) Arabic language course.

Any additional absence would lower the grades as follows:
1 more absence = will lower the final grade by 5 %
2 more absences= will lower the final grade by 10 %
3 more absences = will lower the grade by 15 %
4 more absences = will lower the grade by 20 %

Any additional absences will continue to lower the final grade by 5% increments. 

Learning outcomes: 

By the completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • To acquire a profound knowledge of  contemporary feminist scholarship and activism in North Africa and their engagement with power
  • To gain a multi-disciplinary understanding of women’s contemporary writings in North Africa
  • To learn about Feminist activism in North African in General and Morocco in Particular
  • To develop a sense of the complexity of gender issues and the challenges facing a gender-based reform
  • To get an understanding of the challenges women facing within the context of “change “ in north Africa and Morocco in particular.
  • To develop an individual and critical approach to gender and society issues in North Africa
Method of presentation: 

The course will follow a mixed lecture-seminar format. Meetings consist of lectures, discussions, video screenings and periodic written assignments.  Marks will be based on one mid-term test, a research paper on a topic related to the subject of the course and a final exam, in addition to class participation (through formal presentations based on the required readings).

Students must bring copies of all assigned readings to class for discussions. 

Required work and form of assessment: 
  • Active class participation and attendance - 30%
  • Midterm exam - 20%
  • Term paper (8-15 pages) - 30%
  • Final exam - 20%

Active Class Participation and Attendance
All readings are required and are provided in Moodle. It is vital that all readings be read in full before each class in a way that allows you time to think about the material before coming to discussions. Attendance at all lectures, video screenings, and discussions is mandatory. Students will only receive credit for participation if they make regular, quality contributions to class discussions. There will be periodic writing assignments responding to readings and/or discussion topics as well.

Term Paper
8-15 pages

Midterm Exam
Essay response to questions based on course materials

Final Exam
Essay response to questions based on course materials

Week Topic Content
1 General Introduction of the Basic Concepts
  • Leila Abouzeid, Year of the Elephant: A Moroccan Woman’s Journey Toward Independence, Austin: University of Texas, 2009, Introduction.
  • Francis. M. Deutsch, ‘Undoing Gender’, Gender and Society, Vol. 21. N.1.(Feb 2007), pp.106-127.
2 Gender and Moroccan Society between Tradition and Modernization
  • Moghadam, Valentine, Modernizing Women: Gender and Social Change in the Middle East, Boulder: L. Rienner, 1993.
  • Clinton Bennett, Muslims and Modernity: An introduction to the Issues and Debates, London and New York: Continuum, 2005, pp: 17-30.

Gender, Family and the Family Code (Moudawana)

  • Halim Barakat, ‘The Arab and the Challenge of Social Transformation’ in Elizabeth Warnock Fernea, Women and the Family in the Middle East, Austin, University of Texas Press, pp:27-47.
  • Susan S. Davis, Patience & Power: Women’s Lives in a Moroccan Village, pp:127-179.
  • Emanuela Dalmasso, ‘Family Code in Morocco’; State Feminism or Democracy?’ Paper to be presented at the 2nd ECPR Graduate Conference,Barcelona, August 26, 2008
  • Mir-Hosseini, Ziba. “How the Door of Ijtihad Was Opened and Closed: A Comparative Analysis of Recent Family Law Reforms in Iran and Morocco,” in Washington and Lee Law Review, Vol. 64, No.4 (2007).
4 Women Challenging Patriarchy: Islamic Feminism and Female Religious Leadership
5 Gender, Sexuality and Islam
  • Bouhdiba Abdelwahad, ‘Festivities of violence: Circumcision and the Making of Men’, pp:20-29
  • Mai Ghossoub and Emma Sinclair-Webb, ‘Imagined Masculinities’, pp:1-47
  • Kecia Ali, Sexual Ethics and Islam: Feminist Reflections on Qur'an, Hadith and Jurisprudence,  pp:75-96
  • Fieldwork trip to two Islamist women’s associations : Tajdi Alwai Anissai and Insaf
6 Gender and Development 
  • Edna Acosta-Bellen & Christine E. Bose, ‘From Structural Subordination to Empowerment: Women and Development in Third World Contexts’, Gender & Society, Vol.4 No, 3, September 1990, 299-320.
  • Bourquia ‘Women, Uncertainty and Reproduction in Morocco’
  • Capchan.D, Gender on the Market
  • Mernissi, ‘Women and the Impact of Capitalist Development in Morocco Part II’

Review and Midterm Exam

8 Gender and Space
  • Miriam Hoexter, Shmuel N. Eisenstadt, Nehemia Levtzion, The Public Sphere in Muslim Societies, Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002, pp: 1-9
  • Mernissi, Fatima, Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood, Massachussetts, Perseus Books,1994, pp:1-12
9 Gender and Education
  •  Chrisie J. Edwards, Gender Budget Analysis in Morocco: Achieving Education Parity for Women and Girls, DePaul Rule of Law Journal, International Human Rights Law Institute, Fall 2010. 
10 Gender and Political Participation
  • Sherine, Hafez. The Terms of Empowerment : Islamic Women Activists in Egypt. American University Press. Cairo. 2001
  • Fieldwork trip to a secular women’s association: Association Démocratique des Femmes du Maroc.
11 Gender and Youth
  • Mary Bucholtz, Youth and Cultural Practice, Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 31, (2002), PP: 525-552.
12 Gender, The Arab Spring and Social Change
  • Ebadi, S., Director, Middle East Program, “Reflections on Women in the Arab Spring”, Middle East Program: Woodrow Wilson Center International Center for Scholars, March 8, 2012.
  • Ramadan, T. “Neither an Arab Spring Nor Revolutions”, October 9, 2011. Accessed March 13, 2012.
  • ICAN Report, ‘What the Women Say: The Arab Spring & Implications for Women”. International Civil Society Action Network for Women’s Rights, Peace and Security. Retrieved December 2011
13 Review and Final Exam  


Required readings: 
  • Ahmed, Leila. Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1992.
  • Badran, Margot. Feminists, Islam and Nation. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995.
  • Barlas, Asma. “Qur’anic Hermeneutics and Women’s Liberation,” International Congress on Islamic Feminism, Spain, 2005 (
  • Cooke, Miriam. Women Claim Islam: Creating Islamic Feminism through Literature. New York: Routledge, 2001.
  • Mernissi, Fatima. Beyond the Veil: Male-Female Dynamics in Modern Muslim Society. 1975. Intro. Bloomington and Indiana Polis: Indiana University Press, 1987.
  • Moghadam, Valentine. Modernizing Women: Gender and Social Change in the Middle East. Boulder: L. Rienner, 1993
  • Wadud, Amina. Qur’an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman’s Perspective, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
  • Mernissi, Fatima, The Veil and the Male Elite: a Feminist Interpretation of Women’s Rights in Islam, Addison-Wesley, 1991