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Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Nermin Allam on Feminism, Activism, and Amplifying Women’s Voices

Dr. Angelo Soto-Centeno holds a bat skull.
“I push students to view women’s agency, understand their choices, and trace their different modes of resistance in Middle Eastern and North African societies.” Dr. Nermin Allam, an Arab feminist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Rutgers University-Newark amplifies women’s voices and adopts creative ways to connect theory, data and history in her courses.

Dr. Nermin Allam, a Professor in the Politics at Rutgers-Newark (SAS-N, Political Science), researches gender politics, affect theories, and social movements in the Middle East and North Africa, providing innovative answers to several broad questions:

  • How does the political opportunity structure of autocratic regimes affect women’s participation in social movements?

  • How do feminist activists and women’s groups frame their demands in the absence of opportunities and resources?

  • What moves us in the afterlife of activism, when structures obscure reform and when disappointment drags our will?

Dr. Allam examined these questions in her first book, Women and the Egyptian Revolution: Engagement and Activism during the 2011 Arab Uprisings (Cambridge UP, 2017) and has provided further answers in several subsequently published articles and book chapters. Since completing her first book, Dr. Allam has continued to push the boundaries of gender and women’s studies of the Middle East and North Africa. Her new book project, tentatively titled The Afterlife of Women’s Participation in the 2011 Egyptian Uprising, examines the biographical impact of women's participation in protest movements in autocratic regimes. The book surveys the transformative impacts of momentous political events beyond the overtly ‘political’ sphere of policies.

Q. How does your research inform your teaching and service at the university?

Through amplifying women’s voices and situating their experiences within the historical and modern socio-economic flows and political trajectories of the Middle East and North Africa region, I push students to view women’s agency, understand their choices, and trace their different modes of resistance in Middle Eastern and North African societies. Politics, and especially Middle Eastern politics, are so often viewed—and experienced—as spheres of disappointment. Conflicts, tensions, and misconceptions figure squarely in the literature on Middle Eastern societies and occasionally mark the public view of Muslim communities and gender politics within them. To understand the intrinsically complex enterprise of Middle Eastern politics, my teaching philosophy adopts a two-fold approach. First, I adopt creative ways to connect theory, data, and history. Students tell the story of the Arab-Israeli conflict through the lens of cooking falafel, tabbouleh, and hummus. Culinary traditions humanize students’ view of people whose lives are being disrupted by conflict and war. Second, I include community service and engagement in my courses to engage students to think critically about their society, their place in it, and their duties to their community. The practical community experience offers students the opportunity to take a very close look at multiple understandings of agency, gender, and sexuality with which they may be familiar, as well as those which may be unfamiliar.

Q. How does this work advance the university's mission as a publicly-engaged anchor institution?

I strongly believe that for my scholarship to be meaningful and relevant, it needs to be accessible to the wider public. This is not always easy. Given that I write on women’s rights and their activism in authoritarian regimes, the fear of harassment is real and all too present. While I am cognizant of these challenges, I strive to disseminate my research to the public by publishing Op-Ed pieces at media outlets and online blogs. I have published several articles at the Washington post, I have also published at The Conversation and The Global Post. I have been asked to provide expert opinion on women’s activism in the Middle East by international and national media outlets. In addition to these media outlets, I have written analytical pieces for online platforms and spoke at theatre performances and plays on the topic. I have participated in a discussion of the renowned play, We live in Cairo, at Harvard University. My book was included as a source to learn more about the events which inspired the play production. Through these creative ways, I contribute to advancing the university's mission as a publicly engaged institution.

Follow Dr. Allam on twitter: @nerminallam

To learn more about Dr. Allam's work, you can also:


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