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Reviewed by:
  • Gender and Violence in the Middle East
  • Fatemeh Shayan
Gender and Violence in the Middle East, ed. Moha Ennaji & Fatima Sadiqi, 2011. (UCLA Center for Middle East Development Series, vol. 4, ed. Steven Spiegel & Elizabeth G. Matthews.) Abingdon & New York: Routledge, xviii + 279 pp., £25.99. ISBN: 978-0-41559-411-0 (pbk). [AD]

Gender and Violence in the Middle East edited by Ennaji and Sadiqi explores the familiar ground of historical, cultural, religious, socio-political, and gender issues in the Middle East and North Africa. The core message of the book is that an understanding of gender based violence in the Middle East is complicated by social norms, war, and politics. The book comprises six parts with authors from various disciplines contributing chapters. The first part of the book draws a theoretical framework in order to outline both the concept of violence, as theorized in anthropology, and uncovers central issues of feminist anthropological research. In Patricia Zuckerhut’s analysis, a study on gendered and sexualized violence specifies class, age, and ethnicity to go beyond the classic view of the male perpetrator and the female victim. In doing so, Zuckerhut makes use of the anthropology of violence by explaining that there is no clear concept of violence in societies, that violence is ambivalent and that violence must be analysed in the social context and not in isolation.

Part 2 is made up of two case studies in Palestine and Lebanon covering the politics of fear, gender, youth, and institutional support for women as well as the impact of armed conflict on women. Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, in her contribution, acknowledges that the ideologies of orientalism, colonialism, and zionism have isolated Palestinian women. An example of this is that those ideologies have obscured women’s historical demands and depoliticized their political struggle against race and class (57). More specifically, the chapter on Lebanon by Lamia Rustum Shehadeh builds on the impact of war on [End Page 81] women in the sense that women’s space and role in society has been subverted and women have been excluded from decision making positions (93).

Part 3 is devoted to the detailed analysis of violence against women in Iraq and Afghanistan. During the Iran-Iraq war, the image of male heroism was intensified in Iraq and afterwards the inconsistency and ambivalence of the former Iraqi regime’s gender policies represented the weakness of these policies. Achim Rohdi provides a perfect image of the gender condition in Iraq prior to 2003, however a post-2003 comparison is lacking. Anne Brodsky’s inspiration in the analysis of violence against women contrarily is distinguished by addressing a message of hope towards women after the war in Afghanistan. From Brodsky’s point of view, the new Afghanistan better protects women from violence given the promises from the government such as the Bonn agreement and the establishment of a new constitution.

The third part of the volume again sees a range of case studies. This time the case studies focus on social violence. Valentine Moghadam argues that the call to remove the veil in some Middle Eastern countries and the call for a return to liberal values can be explained in terms of a tension between the waning patriarchal order and the emergence of feminist movements (142). It is for this reason that unveiled women were the targets of violence. Moghadam situates the sources of violence against women in the legacy of masculinity, the unveiling of women in the context of cultural changes and international factors. But, gender based violence can also be examined from non-sociological perspectives. Cari Jo Clark examines the prospects for this together with the psychological, physical, sexual, and economic abuse directed against women and girls because of their subordinate status in society.

The final parts of the book are committed to advancing case studies from Turkey, Morocco, and Palestine. Some of the chapters in these parts will be of interest to researchers interested in legal reform while other chapters address the role of the media in attempting to reduce violence against women. For example, filmmaking has increased dramatically among Palestinians due to their ability to respond to violence against women and their ability...


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pp. 81-83
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