American Culture Studies Ph.D. Dissertations


Voicing the Voiceless: Feminism and Contemporary Arab Muslim Women's Autobiographies

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


American Culture Studies/Ethnic Studies

First Advisor

Ellen Berry (Committee Chair)

Second Advisor

Vibha Bhalla

Third Advisor

Radhika Gajjala (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Erin Labbie (Committee Member)


Arab Muslim women have been portrayed by the West in general and Western Feminism in particular as oppressed, weak, submissive, and passive. A few critics, Nawar al-Hassan Golley, is an example, clarify that Arab Muslim women are not weak and passive as they are seen by the Western Feminism viewed through the lens of their own culture and historical background. Using Transnational Feminist theory, my study examines four autobiographies: Harem Years By Huda Sha'arawi, A Mountainous Journey a Poet's Autobiography by Fadwa Tuqan, A Daughter of Isis by Nawal El Saadawi, and Dreams of Trespass, Tales of a Harem Girlhood by Fatima Mernissi. This study promises to add to the extant literature that examine Arab Muslim women's status by viewing Arab women's autobiographies as real life stories to introduce examples of Arab Muslim women figures who have effected positive and significant changes for themselves and their societies. Moreover, this study seeks to demonstrate, through the study of select Arab Muslim women's autobiographies, that Arab Muslim women are educated, have feminist consciousnesses, and national figures with their own clear reading of their own religion and culture, more telling than that of the reading of outsiders.