Feminisms and Democratic Transitions: The Arab Spring in Comparative Perspective

Valentine M. Moghadam
Professor of Sociology and Director, International Affairs Program
Northeastern University
Boston, MA 02115 USA

Is democracy always and everywhere good for women? Where is the Arab Spring headed, and what are the prospects for a women-friendly democratic consolidation?

Women in the Middle East and North Africa have long experienced gender inequalities in the domains of family, employment, and political participation, and women’s rights groups have focused their energies on ending such inequalities.  The collapse of authoritarian governments in the wake of the Arab Spring initially raised hopes of the emergence of new democracies premised on robust conceptions of citizen rights, including those of women. The new Islamic parties, it was argued by many scholars, had shed their old militancy and dogmatism and would participate constructively in the forging of new polities.  Others were more skeptical of the willingness of Islamist parties to share power and adhere to norms and practices of social inclusion, to address pressing economic issues, and to accede to women’s demands for participation and rights.  In addition, questions could be raised not only about the capacity of Arab countries to consolidate democracy but about the kind of democracy that would emerge.  Three years on, developments have been rocky and uneven. As of January 2014, Egypt remains polarized and suffers from violent clashes, while Tunisia has overcome the difficulties of 2012-13 to finalize a secular constitution that codifies women’s rights.

The presentation will survey experiences of “third wave” pro-democracy movements and democratic transitions in terms of their alignment with feminist values and goals. It will then focus on Tunisia, Egypt, and Morocco – countries that initially had relatively nonviolent protests for democracy and change – to examine similarities and differences across the three cases and offer a framework for a model of democracy inclusive of women’s full citizenship and gender equality.

Dr. Rae Lesser Blumberg William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Sociology University of Virginia, Department of Sociology to speak at National University

Dr. Rae Lesser Blumberg, William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of Sociology at the University of Virginia.
She carried out development-related work in 44 countries worldwide, in virtually every sector of development (e.g., research on microfinance in 16 countries; on conflict/post-conflict in 12 countries). She links research on a wide array of development topics to her two gender theories, one a general theory of gender stratification and the other a gender and development theory. Her key areas of research are gender theory, gender and stratification, and women’s empowerment. Her publications include Stratification: Socioeconomic and Sexual Inequality (Wm. C. Brown, 1978); “A General Theory of Gender Stratification” (Sociological Theory 1984); and Gender, Family, and Economy: The Triple Overlap (Sage 1991). “Making the Case for the Gender Variable: Women and the Wealth and Well-being of Nations” (U.S.A.I.D. 1989), EnGENDERing Wealth and Well-being: Empowerment for Global Change, edited by Blumberg, Cathy Rakowski, Irene Tinker and Michael Monteon, (Westview, 1995), Complex Ethnic Households in America, edited by Blumberg, Laurel Schwede and Anna Y. Chan (Rowman & Littlefield, 2006), and two forthcoming books, The Queen Midas Chronicles, by Blumberg (Paradigm), and Development in Crisis, edited by Blumberg and Sam Cohn (Routledge). She is the author of over 100 publications.

Mr. Zuhair al-Jezairy, author of The Devil You Don’t Know: Going Back to Iraq to speak at National University

• Zuhair al-Jezairy is an Iraqi journalist, currently editor in chief of Voices of Iraq (Aswat al-Iraq) news agency and part of the Iraqi Journalist Union, he was the previous editor in chief of the daily Arabic newspaper Al Mada, and he has also written several publications and has worked on various documentaries.

• In 1979, journalist Zuhair al-Jezairy fled Iraq and certain death after openly defying Saddam’s regime. Twenty-five years later he is back to Iraq from London, and cautiously celebrating. He joined “al Mada” newspaper, and became the Editor-in-Chief when the newspaper broke the Oil-for-Food scandal. He left to start his own documentary film company and traveled throughout Iraq, from the Marshlands of the South, to Tikrit, Najaf, and the Northern region of Kurdistan. He sees the country emerge from thirty-five years of totalitarianism and documents the violence and bloodshed, as well as the many brave and extraordinary people he meets. Giving first-hand accounts of the looting of Baghdad and his encounters with ordinary Iraqis all over the country, this is an elegiac and inspirational account of Iraq after Saddam.

• He studied German literature in Baghdad and since 1968; he has worked as a journalist in Baghdad, Beirut and London, and has published 18 books. The most recent is “The Devil You Don’t Know”, his memoir/reportage of returning there after 25 years in exile

• While editor in chief, Mr. al-Jezairy and his Agency Aswat Al Iraq (Voices of Iraq) have won several distinguished International awards for his investigative journalism.

• Mr. Al Jezairy spends his time training those to follow him as a journalist, how to report the news objectively and to participate in, as he calls “The Real Jihad, Fighting for the Truth”.

• 2008-2009, he accepted a fellowship at the United States Institute for Peace.

• 2008: he introduced his unique historical project to record Iraq’s history (Iraq’s Oral Memory); the goal is to record the memories of elderly people about historical events.

“There’s another history behind the violence history.” said Al-Jezairy http://www.auisvoice.org/node/31

• Mr. al-jezairy has published several books, novels and documentaries on Beirut, Kurdistan, Palestine and Iraq.

One of his recent books is “The Devil you don’t know, going back to Iraq”.

Mr. Raymond Barrett, author of Dubai Dreams: Inside the Kingdom of Bling to speak at National University

Raymond Barrett is the author of Dubai Dreams: Inside the Kingdom of Bling. He lived in the Middle East for nearly a decade and writes regularly on the region for Ireland’s Sunday Business Post. He has also written for Foreign Policy, The Christian Science Monitor, Haaretz, Open Democracy, The Daily Star (Beirut) and Kuwait Times.

Dr. Valentine Moghadam, Director of the International Affairs Program and Professor of Sociology, Northeastern University to speak at National University.

Dr. Valentine Moghadam, Northeastern University, Boston, Director of the International Affairs Program and Professor of Sociology.
Born in Tehran, Iran, Dr. Moghadam received her higher education in Canada and the U.S. In addition to her academic career, she has been a senior research fellow at UNU/WIDER in Helsinki, Finland (1990-95), and a section chief at UNESCO in Paris (2004-06). Dr. Moghadam’s areas of research are globalization, transnational feminist networks, civil society and citizenship, and gender and development in the Middle East and North Africa. Among her publications are Modernizing Women: Gender and Social Change in the Middle East (2013), Globalizing Women: Transnational Feminist Networks (2005, which won the American Political Science Association’s Victoria Schuck Award), and Globalization and Social Movements: Islamism, Feminism, and the Global Justice Movement (2009, updated second edition 2012).