Annemarie van Geel

Winner Dissertation Prize 2019

For women only. Gender segregation, Islam and modernity in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Supervisor: Prof. dr. C. van Nieuwkerk
Co-supervisor: Prof. dr. C. Versteegh
Nomination: Radboud University Nijmegen, Faculty of Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies

Report by the selection committee

This study of gender segregation and attitudes towards modernity convincingly opens the door to a world often inaccessible to the West – the world of women in Arab countries. The research findings, especially the striking contrast between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in terms of the attitudes of women themselves towards their religion and role in society, are highly relevant to both the academic and political domains.

In her thesis, Van Geel analyses in a highly original manner the emergence of public spaces that are ‘women only’, as expressions of a specific, local modernity with a religious and spiritual dimension. Never before has a Dutch researcher conducted research in these countries into the position of women by speaking to the women themselves. Van Geel has demonstrated courage in taking on this challenge and, in the eyes of the jury, done it successfully.

There are special universities and banks in Saudi Arabia where women can study and arrange their financial affairs without coming into contact with men. In Kuwait, however, contact between men and women is the norm. Van Geel asks what women think about this situation. The author comprehensively examines views of modernity versus Westernization, making the author makes excellent use of social science theories and also making this book all the more relevant today.

Finally, Van Geel’s mission is – and I quote –  to “contribute to knowledge and understanding of the Middle East in the Netherlands, especially in relation to women”, as she writes in her public summary, highly successful not least on account of her easy and smooth style of writing.