"Abisaab’s insightful study provides a breath of fresh air in the field. Juxtaposing oral histories with a range of other sources, he charts the radicalization of Lebanese working women and shows how their militancy—manifest in strikes, protests, and labor unrest—unsettles opponents as well as standard accounts of labor and women’s history. Militant Women of a Fragile Nation shakes up theoretical formulations on colonialism, feminism, labor, and the state, and should be read by those interested in working women and men in the Arab Middle East and elsewhere."—Beth Baron, author of Egypt as a Woman: Nationalism, Gender, and Politics
"A work of immense importance….It is an unparalleled account of the role of women in labor in the construction of the modern Lebanese state."—Irene Gendzier, Boston University
"This is a book of love. Malek Abisaab recovers the historical life of Lebanese working women, from the bucolic songs they sang to relieve backbreaking labor on 19th-century plantations to their heroic leadership in the fight for rights in 20th-century tobacco factories. Meticulously researched and passionately written, this book writes women back into Lebanese history and transforms our view of the country we thought we knew."—Elizabeth F. Thompson, University of Virginia
In Militant Women of a Fragile Nation, Malek Abisaab takes a gendered approach to labor conflicts, anti-colonial struggles, and citizenship in modern Lebanon. The author traces the conditions and experiences of women workers at the French Tobacco Monopoly. Challenging the prevailing assumptions about culturally inscribed roles for Middle Eastern women, the book highlights traditions of public activism and militancy among rural women which are in turn adapted to the spaces of the factory. Women employed distinct strategies involving kinship, sectarian, gender, and class ties to enhance their work conditions and social benefits. Drawing on extensive ethnographic data, the author convincingly argues that the condition of women can only be explained by exploring the shifting relationship between culture, societal arrangements, and economic settings. Abisaab’s richly detailed work illuminates the impact of class and gender in the transformation of modern Lebanon.
Malek Abisaab is assistant professor of history at McGill University. He has published numerous articles on the subject of gender and the Middle East.
6 x 9, 334 pages