WRRS: Dancing with Words: Subverting the Master Narrative in Saudi Women’s Literature

WRRS: Dancing with Words: Subverting the Master Narrative in Saudi Women’s Literature

Wednesday, 25 October 2017 - 2:00pm
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Board Room, Middle East Centre, St Antony's College
Dr Basma Al Mutlaq (School of Oriental and African Studies)
Dr Soraya Tremayne (Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology (ISCA)
MEC Women's Rights Research Seminars


As in other parts of the world, women’s empowerment has gained prominence in today’s Saudi Arabia, with a surge in initiatives and leadership projects – all seeking to address the themes of ‘reform’, ‘renewal’ and ‘change.’ Drawing on Michel Foucault’s ‘counter memory’ theory, I examine women’s discourse as a space of identity, power and agency that counters the ‘master narrative’ of a patriarchal and religious culture. Surveying women’s literature between 1960 and 2015, this seminar which is based on my forthcoming book Saudi Women Writers: Gender, Identity and Resistance, examines how women writers are challenging their male-dominated culture and responding to the institutionalization of their womanhood. It begins by discussing women’s struggle for rights in the kingdom, and how the ‘woman issue’ has been used as political bargaining chip by both religious/national and Western discourses. Subsequent chapters discuss themes born out of these women’s work, which are ‘Breaking Taboos’, ‘Globalization, Women and the City’, ‘Violence and Gender’ and ‘Incarcerated bodies’.

About the speaker:

Basma al-Mutlaq has a Ph.D in comparative and feminist literature from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. She was a Visiting Fellow at the Department of International Development, Queen Elizabeth House, University of Oxford, where she developed her interest in gender in Saudi Arabia and Arab women’s literature. Al-Mutlaq was an assistant professor for two years at Prince Muhammad Bin Fahad University in Saudi Arabia. A contributor to various Arab media publications, and to Patriarchy in Sandra Cisneros's The House on Mango Street, 2010, and Global Viewpoints, 2010, she is author of the forthcoming Saudi Women Writers: Gender, Identity and Resistance (2018). Al-Mutlaq is the creator of blog SaudiAmber (2007-2015), about and for women in Saudi Arabia. She was also a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Social Media.