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The first lady phenomenon: Elites, states, and the contradictory politics of women’s empowerment in the neoliberal arab world

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)575-587
Number of pages13
JournalComparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East
Issue number3
Published1 Jan 2015


King's Authors


Drawing on analysis of different sources-media analysis, policy documents, interviews, and participant observation-this article analyzes the representation of Queen Rania of Jordan and the First Lady of Syria, Asma al-Assad, and their work in civil society. An analysis of Rania and Assad helps illustrate the ways in which gender roles and representations, in the Arab and Muslim world as elsewhere, are always multiple and contradictory, varying across lines of social class and intimately connected to and shaped by the ever changing political and ideological projects of states and elites. As such, there is a need, when addressing gender politics in the Arab and Muslim world, to move beyond simple stances of contesting or inverting single kinds of gender representations (whether “traditional” or “modern”) and instead move toward constructing grounded analyses of how constellations of gender roles and representations are constructed and negotiated within the context of regional and global political economy.

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