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Women, Gender and the Nation-State in American and Saudi Culture Open Access

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This dissertation relies on scholarship on Saudi Arabia, as well as feminist and postcolonial theory, to explore how representations of Saudi women are constructed and deployed in the political sphere in both Saudi Arabia and the United States. It argues that these representations form the basis of "cultural" explanations for political phenomena, and are central to the narrating of the nation. It also explores how the "Saudi Woman" is constructed and dismantled. By examining Saudi culture wars between Islamists and modernists in the 1980s and 1990s, as well as similar clashes between Islamists and liberals in Saudi Arabia in the aftermath of the events of September 11, 2001, I argue that what is at stake in these symbolic contestations, which deploy representations of Saudi women, is access to the resources of the nation-state. Finally, I explore the work of Saudi women writers in breaking down the category of "Saudi Woman" as an object of analysis and analyze how three of the most celebrated Saudi female novelists have participated in narrating the nation.

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