With the creation of the modern nation-state in the Middle East and North Africa, women have been and continue to be manipulated to represent a cultural ideal of perfect womanhood. This is often greatly at odds with the realities of women's lives and aspirations. However, individual women, through careful manipulation of gender relations, often succeed in casting aside the culturally accepted bonds which diminish their lives. Even so, women in groups are deemed unacceptable unless they conform to state mandates. In many countries in the Middle East, women are only legally permitted to form groups which are charitable organizations concerned with the welfare of the disabled or the handicapped. Clearly women in groups are perceived as a threat by the state. This challenging book examines the nature of the relationship between both women and the state and men and the state. It presents a balanced mix of theoretical and empirical research which analyzes both the formal and informal ways in which women have organized themselves, and been organized, in Arab society.
'As an anthropologist and development consultant working with women, I find this book very useful. It succeeded in describing constraints to women's groups and in presenting much information on their operation; both topics had excellent documentation ... Academics and practitioners working on Middle Eastern women should have this book, and upper-level classes on women and/or development could use it.' Journal of Anthropological Research ' "Organizing Women" sparks again the debate on women in the Middle East through a plurality of voices - Middle Eastern and non - searching for one Middle Eastern identity, or one womanhood identity, but trying to give voice to the variety of women's experiences across culture, class and religion.' Cambridge Anthropology 'Organizing Women offers the reader a rich collection of articles not only because it focuses on a "cutting edge" topic in gender studies and development but also because it brings together under one cover a diverse group of women social scientists "thinking about" a central theoretical and methodological question: what happens when women in the Middle East try to organize themselves.' Association for Middle East Women's Studies