Cover Image

Larger ImageView Larger

States and Women's Rights

The Making of Postcolonial Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco

Mounira Charrad (Author)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 359 pages
ISBN: 9780520225763
October 2001
$33.95, £27.00
At a time when the situation of women in the Islamic world is of global interest, here is a study that unlocks the mystery of why women's fates vary so greatly from one country to another. Mounira M. Charrad analyzes the distinctive nature of Islamic legal codes by placing them in the larger context of state power in various societies.

Charrad argues that many analysts miss what is going on in Islamic societies because they fail to recognize the logic of the kin-based model of social and political life, which she contrasts with the Western class-centered model. In a skillful synthesis, she shows how the logic of Islamic legal codes and kin-based political power affect the position of women. These provide the key to Charrad's empirical puzzle: why, after colonial rule, women in Tunisia gained broad legal rights (even in the absence of a feminist protest movement) while, despite similarities in culture and religion, women remained subordinated in post-independence Morocco and Algeria. Charrad's elegant theory, crisp writing, and solid scholarship make a unique contribution in developing a state-building paradigm to discuss women's rights.

This book will interest readers in the fields of sociology, politics, law, women's studies, postcolonial studies, Middle Eastern studies, Middle Eastern history, French history, and Maghrib studies.
List of Maps and Tables
Note on Foreign Terms and Transliteration

PART ONE: Similarities: Common Heritage of the Maghrib
1. State Formation in Kin-Based Societies
2. Islam and Family Law: An Unorthodox View
3. Women Ally with the Devil: Gender, Unity, and Division
4. Men Work with Angels: Power of the Tribe

PART TWO: Historical Differences
5. The Precolonial Polity: National Variations
6. Colonial Rule: French Strategies

PART THREE Three Paths to Nation-State and Family Law
7. Palace, Tribe, and Preservation of Islamic Law: Morocco
8. Elite Divisions and the Law in Gridlock: Algeria
9. State Autonomy from Tribe and the Transformation of Family Law: Tunisia

Conclusion. State-Building, Family Law, and Women's Rights
History, Strategy, and Policy
Some Theoretical Implications
Mounira M. Charrad is on the faculty of the Department of Sociology and the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas, Austin.
"Brilliantly conceptualized and thoroughly researched, Mounira Charrad's book breaks important new ground in the explanation of legal changes affecting women's rights. We learn why apparently similar countries have taken very different paths. This book is a 'must read' not only for students of North Africa, but for everyone interested in the impact of nation-building and state policies on gender relations."—Theda Skocpol, author of States and Social Revolutions

"Theoretically powerful and historically rich, this is an important study in comparative political sociology. Using the comparative method at its best to make a provocative argument about kin-based politics, Charrad gives us a new way of looking at state-building strategies."—Seymour M. Lipset, author of Political Man

"In a stunning scholarly achievement, Charrad identifies the links between Islamic legal codes, kin-based political power and the subordination of women. She traces the inner logic of political systems, showing how the different bases on which nations are built have very different implications for the rights of women."—Ann Swidler, author of Talk of Love: How Culture Matters

"Charrad adds a new dimension to the consideration of women's rights and state formation not only in the Middle East, but throughout the world. In a rigorous comparative analysis of the origins and development of women's rights in Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, she demonstrates how history and politics shape family law."—Elizabeth W. Fernea, author of In Search of Islamic Feminism

"Necessary reading for those who wish to understand the role of state formation and cultural identity in diverse patterns of Muslim family law reform, a legacy which continues to impact contemporary Muslim politics."—John Esposito, author of Islam and Politics

"Charrad has offered one of the most systematic and insightful comparative analyses of the relationships between family systems, family law, and state. That the 'personal is political' becomes very concrete as she persuasively demonstrates that family relations are inseparable from state politics."—Suad Joseph, editor of Citizenship and Gender in the Middle East

"Dr. Charrad's convincingly argued and meticulously researched book raises the bar of comparative studies of gender and the State, while making a unique contribution to knowledge about the rights and status of Muslim women in general and of the women of the Maghrib in particular."—Rae Blumberg, author of Engendering Wealth and Well-being

"A new interpretation that will change the way we think about women's status and family law in North Africa."—Nancy Gallagher, author of Approaches to the History of the Middle East

"Charrad's book is a wonderful example of the strength of the comparative method . . . Her study is a major contribution to the literature on women's rights and to the tradition of historical sociology."—Randall Collins, author of Macrohistory: Essays in Sociology of the Long Run

Distinguished Scholarly Publication Award, American Sociological Association

J. David Greenstone Book Award, American Political Science Association

Honorable Mention for the Mirra Komarovsky Award, Eastern Sociological Society

2002 Best Book Award, Phi Alpha Theta International Honor Society in History

Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship Award for an outstanding book in Political Sociology, American Sociological Association, Political Sociology Section

Robert W. Hamilton Book Award, University Co-op and the University of Texas at Austin

Join UC Press

Members receive 20-40% discounts on book purchases. Find out more