This article explores how higher education is being conceptualized as part of a neo-liberal ‘feminist’ social change project in the post-imperial context of the Arab Gulf. Challenging the tendency to essentialised treatments of gender and women in Muslim countries, it makes visible the diverse experiences and views of a particular group of Gulf purpo- sively sampled women – students, graduates and academics – as it explores how they are situating themselves against available feminist narratives, how they are seeing themselves as citizens and political actors, and how higher education’s spaces and constraints are mediating these processes. A conflicted picture emerges, of mass higher education helping provide women with radical ideas and ambitions, and helping to make public demands and assert self-representation, while their freedoms to act are limited by underlying hegemonic structures that are still pre- dominantly male and against which women variously rationalize their strategic conformity.
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