Annemarie van Geel

NISIS PhD candidate at the Faculty of Religious Studies, Radboud University. Research project: Women-Only Public Spaces on the Arabian Peninsula: Comparing Discourses on Gender, Islam, and Modernity in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Keywords: Gulf region - Gender - Islam - Modernity - Female public spaces.

Female Public Spaces on the Arabian Peninsula: Comparing Discourses on Islam, Gender and Modernity in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait

This research aims to study the emergence of women - only public spaces - such as waiting areas in hospitals and separate bank branches - that are 'only for women', as well as the opposite development of ikhtilāṭ: public gender mixing. Focal countries are Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

The project investigates in which ways the emergence and development of women-only public spaces in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are linked to discourses on Islam, gender and the modern nation. The state seems to connect its image of a "modern nation" to issues of gender and women, but to what extent are female public spaces an expression of a distinct "local" modernity? How do women view the contestation between the state, the Islamists and the "liberals" on female public spaces and discussions on ikhtilāṭ (public gender mixing)? How do women themselves view the "rise of women" on the Peninsula?

These questions are being investigated by means of a review of secondary literature and extensive fieldwork in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait interviewing women in those countries. So while also looking at religious establishments and governments, the research takes a bottom-up approach and stresses the importance of the perspectives of Saudi and Kuwaiti women themselves.


Annemarie van Geel (1981) graduated from University College Utrecht in 2003 (cum laude) and received her MPhil in International Relations, specialising in Middle East politics, from Cambridge University a year later. After graduation she left for Cairo to study Arabic at the American University. She continued her studies of Arabic on the West Bank and in Syria and Yemen, while traveling the region extensively. Before starting her PhD research at Radboud University Nijmegen, Annemarie worked for Clingendael (the Netherlands Institute of International Relations), ISIM (International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World) and the Middle East department of Amnesty International in the Netherlands.

Simultaneous to her PhD research, Annemarie works as an independent Middle East specialist. Her organisation, Faraasha Middle East Training & Advisory, provides training, workshops and advice on Middle East affairs. The focus of Faraasha is on women in the Middle East, the Arab-Israeli conflict and socio-economic developments in Egypt, Syria and the Gulf region. More information can be found at

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Last Modified: 10-04-2015