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Communications and Marketing

Professor Talhami’s latest book addresses importance of Middle Eastern women in democracy

The sole efforts of Ghada Talhami, emeritus professor of politics, over the last four years culminated with the publishing of her seventh book, Historical Dictionary of Women in the Middle East and North Africa.

The book is part of a series by publishing company Scarecrow Press, and one of the few of its kind with a lone author.

Talhami said she spent a lot of time in libraries compiling research for the work. She was prompted to tackle the topic after teaching the course Women in the Third World for 25 years at the College and writing many articles about the issue.

One of her main purposes is to show her students and readers how the trajectory of the struggle of Middle Eastern women, particularly Muslim and Arab women, is much different than that of the middle class white American woman.

“I teach and I believe the issue of women and women’s mobilization is essential to the Middle East,” she said. “Without women, there can be no democracy.”

Much like she does in the classroom, Talhami uses a comparative approach in her book, distinguishing between Arab, Iranian, Turkish, and Israeli women. She referred to the writing as a “demanding and challenging task” in part because of the distinct differences among the cultures, their languages, spellings, names, and more.

Another challenge was the lack of research available about women in the Middle East, as research about the region’s politics is more prevalent.

“You have to dig deep to get the story about women,” said Talhami, who relied on information from dictionaries, biographies, and “as much as I could get my hands on.”

This is Talhami’s second book about women of the Middle East. The first, The Mobilization of Women in Egypt, gained popularity after the Egyptian Revolution of 2011. When Talhami makes her regular appearances on radio shows on National Public Radio and Pacifica Radio, to name a few, they often bring up that book, she said.

Talhami says her perspective about women’s roles in the Middle East is unique because, as a Palestinian, she is a native scholar. 

“I don’t see women of the Middle East as exotic. I see them as normal women, normal political actors that have been in politics since the beginning of the 20th Century,” she said.

Anyone with an interest in Middle Eastern politics would enjoy her book, she said, and she encourages her former students to read it, too.