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“Only for Women:” Women, the State, and Reform in Saudi Arabia

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Abstract:

The strict segregation of women in Saudi cities cannot be understood as a mere consequence of tradition or conservatism: it has been increasingly implemented as urbanization has progressed and as the modern state's authority has spread over the territory. Segregation led to the development of a female sphere of activities. This separation is not only spatial; state institutions have designated women as a distinct category for which a particular discourse has been developed. The government's discourse of reform, while putting forward elite women and publicizing the debates about various problems that Saudi women confront, contributes to the strengthening of the categorization of “Saudi women.” Women have appropriated this segregated organization and reproduce it daily, and on their own terms, by developing their own activities and discourses that are by women, and for women.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3751/62.4.13

Publication date: September 1, 2008

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