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How Haram Becomes Halal: Gendered Impact of Social Change in Saudi Arabia
As of 2023, Saudi women can drive a car, watch a film at a movie theatre, and join a women’s national football team. The Saudi government, that had refrained from granting these rights to women out of consideration for conservatives over the past decade, drastically shifted its policies to empower women. Outsiders have viewed these changes favorably based on the views of those who benefited from and were able to capitalize the opportunities. The Saudi government had to figure out ways to make permissible (halal) what it had previously deemed prohibited by religion (haram). However, it is not clear from the outsiders’ perspective if a wide range of women are open to change. And more importantly, are these transformations religiously acceptable for them? Or are their voices totally muted even in efforts to empower them? This presentation engages gender studies with focuses on consumption and entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia by employing Foucauldian theory of biopolitics. It attempts to capture Saudi women’s perceptions on the recent social changes based on fieldwork in Riyadh which includes the voices of women of various ages, classes, and educational levels. An international perspective of outside actors is also considered to examine how much of these efforts are due to pull or push effects.
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Saudi Arabia
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