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Comparative Feminist Activism in the Middle East

Funding agency: SRA-MECW. Duration: 2021-ongoing

Feminist solidarity transcends borders. Yet, there is a tension arising from an entrenched view of feminism as inherently “Western.” Challenging such a dichotomized worldview and exploring the transnational within Arab feminist activism is at the heart of this project, which aims to explore how feminist practices and strategies for change-making travel between countries, and are passed on from one generation to the next.

Combining insights from performance studies, social movement theory, and feminist political theory, puts the history of feminist activism in the Middle East in new light, and open up new, exciting avenues of research on the development of civil and political rights and the efficacy of a particular kind of protest to fight political inequality. Focusing on the history of performative action as a feminist tool may provide valuable insight, both on the function of rights claiming in political struggle as well as how certain rights, such as the right to vote, become not only thinkable but practicable, which in turn helps in making the resulting subject, such as the female voter, intelligible in the specific context. Furthermore, centering such a study in the Middle Eastern context challenges the preconception of Arab feminists as “westernized,” by showing a genealogy of feminist activism, in which contemporary activists draw inspiration from earlier generations of Arab feminists rather than from “the West.”


This project aims to answer the following questions:

  • What strategies have been employed by feminist activists in Egypt, Tunisia, and Saudi Arabia, and what are the sources of these strategies?
  • How are strategies and methods for feminist activism and change-making in the Middle East shared and passed on, between generations and between countries?
  • How are contemporary Arab feminists orienting and positioning themselves in relation to local and/or regional feminist genealogies, versus European and American histories of feminist activism?


Abdelmoez, Joel W. (2021) "Deviants, Queers or Scissoring Sisters of Men? Translating and Locating Queer and Trans Feminisms in the Arab World", in S. D'Urso, T. Rosenberg, & A. R. Winget (Eds.), Palgrave Handbook of Queer and Trans Feminisms in Contemporary Performance Palgrave Macmillan.

Abdelmoez, J. W. (2022) Constructions of Masculinity in the Middle East and North Africa by Mohja Kahf and Nadine Sinno (eds.). Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication 15(3).

Abdelmoez, Joel W. (2022) "Good Tidings for Saudi Women? Techno-Orientalism, Gender, and Saudi Politics in Global Media Discourse"CyberOrient16(1), 4-34.

Research Activities

Joel Abdelmoez interviewed in Dagens Nyheter about sportswashing in Saudi Arabia - "Naivt att damtennis i Saudiarabien skulle leda till förbättringar för kvinnor" (Pelle Strandman, Dagens Nyheter, 11 July 2023).

Research Team

Joel Abdelmoez, Doctoral Student at CMES and the Department of Political Science (Lund University)

joel [dot] abdelmoez [at] cme [dot] lu [dot] se (joel[dot]abdelmoez[at]cme[dot]lu[dot]se)