Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton

UOSM2037 Women and Gender in the Arab and Muslim World

Module Overview

The topic of gender in the Arab and Muslim world is one that encourages you to reflect on your own ideas about gender roles and the preconceptions and stereotypes that dominate Western portrayals of women and gender in the Muslim world. This module will give you the opportunity to embark on an in-depth exploration of the topic through discussion of key themes of relevance to women’s lives in the Arab and Muslim world today. The module will provide you with knowledge of a key region of the world and an important religious tradition, developing your awareness as a global citizen.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• Introduce the cultural, religious and societal context of the Arab and wider Muslim world; • Explore the factors shaping ideas of gender and gender roles in Islam and the Arab world as well as in ‘Western’ society; • Develop understanding of key approaches to studying women and gender in the Arab and Muslim world; • Explore key themes relevant to women’s lives in the contemporary Arab world; • Develop skills in identifying and working with primary and secondary source material; • Develop communication skills in both oral and written forms, and for a variety of audiences.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Identify and discuss the contexts shaping ideas of gender and gender roles in the Arab and Muslim world;
  • Reflect on skills for developing your abilities for independent learning.
  • Evaluate different theoretical, disciplinary and methodological approaches to the study of women and gender in the Arab world;
  • Critically reflect on your own ideas of gender and gender roles;
  • Engage sensitively in debates related to women and gender in the Arab and Muslim world;
  • Use both academic and primary sources to develop and demonstrate your knowledge of a particular topic or theme related to women and gender in the Arab world;
  • Convey your knowledge of a complex topic in written forms for both an academic and a general audience;
  • Demonstrate good oral communication skills;
  • Work effectively both individually and in a group;
  • Reflect on and develop your intercultural competence;


The module will begin with an introduction to the cultural, religious and societal context of the Arab and wider Muslim world in order to put the discussion of gender and gender roles in its local context. You will be encouraged to think about your own understandings of gender through discussion of the construction of gender categories in ‘Western’ society and scholarship. We will then go on to discuss how the topic of women in the Arab and Muslim world has been studied by scholars from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, and how Muslim women have been stereotypically portrayed in Western discourse. The module will then explore a number of historical and contemporary themes of importance to the understanding of women and gender in the Arab and Muslim world, including: • Islamic texts and Muslim practices: the veil and family law; • Arab feminism and Islamic feminism; • Women’s public and private roles and the interplay between public and private spheres; • Masculinities; • Sexualities; • Muslim women in the ‘West’. (Specific topics will vary year to year.) Throughout the module we will rely on both academic sources and primary sources from and about the Arab world, including literature and film where appropriate. All sources will be available in translation where necessary. The focus of the module will be on contemporary life in the Arab world, with reference to historical texts and contexts and other areas of the wider Muslim world as necessary.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

The module will be delivered through weekly seminar/discussion sessions, complemented by a variety of online resources. In some weeks, you will be expected to listen to or watch pre-recorded lectures/webinars or other content before the sessions, which will build on the material presented in these online forms. In other weeks the module convener will deliver a short lecture at the start of the seminar to set the context for discussion and activities. The seminar sessions will involve a variety of activities, including: group discussion or tasks related to the pre-recorded lecture content; informal presentations of weekly readings; and group and whole-class discussions of readings and other materials. These sessions will involve active student participation through group work, presentations, leading seminar sessions, and discussion.

Completion of assessment task66
Preparation for scheduled sessions60
Project supervision2
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Ahmed, L (2011). A quiet revolution: the veil’s resurgence, from the Middle East to America. 

Badran, M. & Cooke, M. (1990). Opening the gates: a century of Arab feminist writing. 

Fernea, E. W. & Bezirgan, B. Q (1977). Middle Eastern Muslim women speak. 

Spivak, G. C (1988). 'Can the Subaltern Speak?', in Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture.. 

Accessing Muslim Lives (autobiographical extracts).

Roded, R (1998). Women in Islam and the Middle East: a reader. 

A Barlas (2002). 'Believing women’ in Islam : unreading patriarchal interpretations of the Qur’¯an.. 

Mernissi, F (1991). The veil and the male elite : a feminist interpretation of women’s rights in Islam. 

Ahmed, L (1992). Women and gender in Islam : historical roots of a modern debate. 



Group project


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2500 words) 50%
Group presentation 20%
Reaction paper  (300 words) 10%
Webpage 20%


MethodPercentage contribution
Individual project 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Share this module Share this on Facebook Share this on Twitter Share this on Weibo

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.