Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, International Affairs, University Of Georgia

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2009
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Political Science, Yale University
Women’s Activism in Religious Political Movements: A Study of Four Movements in Israel and the West Bank

For feminist scholars, the participation of women in socially conservative religious-political movements presents two main puzzles. First, why do women participate, often in large numbers, in the promotion of social agendas aimed at limiting their rights (such as laws that disadvantage women in inheritance, divorce, and child custody) and space of action (through notions that women's primary responsibility is to the home and that they are less fit to serve as political leaders)? Second, women in these movements present a particular challenge to the movements' ideology. On the one hand, the movement and its participants' articulated commitment is to a so-called natural sexual division of labor whereby women tend to reproductive and domestic work in the private sphere and men to political leadership in the public sphere. On the other hand, the women activists in these movements are often anything but strictly housewives and mothers. Rather, women activists engage in public political activism and at times attain such public visibility and even leadership positions that contradict their professed ideological commitments and their interpretation of the difference between women and men's capacities and religiously sanctioned purpose in life. This dissertation tries to address these two puzzles by focusing on the variation in the forms of women's participation in religious political movements. Through qualitative comparative study of two pairs of religious political movements sharing a religious tradition and a political context, this study examines a hypothesized relationship between the presence or absence of nationalist/communalist ideology within the movement and variation in the forms of women's participation in religious political movements. The first pair is the Jewish settlers' movement in the West Bank and the Israeli Sephardic religious movement Shas. The second pair is the Palestinian Hamas movement and the Palestinian-Israeli Islamic movement.