Zahia Smail Salhi

Zahia Smail Salhi received her Ph.D. in Arabic and Islamic Studies from the University of Exeter. She taught at the University of Leeds from 1998 to 2012. In January 2013 she joined the University of Manchester as Chair of Modern Arabic Studies.

She held the position of Co-director of the Centre for the Advanced Study of the Arab World (CASAW) from 2013-2016 and led the CASAW research network on Women, Empowerment, Citizenship and Development.

She is a fellow member of the British Society of Middle Eastern Studies, and served as its Executive Director from 2006 to 2008. She is also member of the World Congress of Middle Eastern Studies (WOCMES), and serves as a member of its International Advisory Council.

Currently, she is a co-editor of the British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies and served as its book reviews editor from 2000-2008. She is a member of the editorial committee of Women Studies International Forum, The International Journal of Francophone Studies and The Journal of Middle Eastern Journal of Culture and Communication.

In the field of Arabic literature she served as a Member of the Committee of judges of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, 2012-2013, and a Member of the Committee of judges of the Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation, 2016.

Presented lecture: Do Muslim Women Need Saving by the West?

The rhetoric about saving Muslim women from their own people has become a bone of contention in recent years, but especially after the first lady Laura Bush declared that US intervention in Afghanistan was motivated by their mission to save Afghan women from their tyrannical men and liberate them from the stifling layers of their burqas. The image of the veil as the modern harem which imprisons Muslim women motivated calls to help Muslim women unveil amounting to the veiling ban in France and physical attacks on veiled women in other European countries to forcibly unveil them.

This lecture endeavours to link these recent acts to similar acts which took place in the 19th and 20th century. It will trace back the tradition of military intervention to save Muslim women all the way to the 19th century when French colonial administration was motivating French humanists to save native Algerian women from their own people, and link the veiling ban in France to the campaign to publicly unveil native women in colonial Algeria in the 1950s. This lecture will be guided by the following research questions:

1- Do we need military intervention to save women?

2- Is it possible to save women from their own people?

3- Did the French save native Algerian women and did the US save Afghan women?

4- Why is the veil seen as a disempowering prison/harem?

5- Did anyone ask the Muslim woman whether she wanted saving/unveiling?

Selective list of publications:

  • Zahia Smail Salhi, Occidentalism: Representations of the Maghrebi Experience of the East-West Encounter, EUP: 2018.
  • Zahia Smail Salhi, “Withstanding the Winds of Change? Literary Representations of the Gulf War and Its Impacts on Saudi Society”, Arab Studies Quarterly, Vol. 39, No. 4 (Fall 2017), pp. 973-995.
  • Hussain Al-Qarni and Zahia Smail Salhi, “New Images in Old Frames: Ibn Harma (d. ca. 176/792) between Classical Poetry and Abbasid Modernity”. Journal of Abbasid Studies. Vol. 3 (2016), pp. 56-89. doi 10.1163/22142371-12340023
  • Ruth Abou Rached and Zahia Smail Salhi, “The politics of women-focused activism, academia and the state in Middle East and North Africa”, Contemporary Levant, 2:1, (2016), pp.82-93.
    doi 10.1080/20581831.2016.1250466.
  • Zahia Smail Salhi (ed.), Gender and Violence in Islamic Societies: Patriarchy, Islamism and Politics in the Middle East and North Africa, I. B. Tauris, 2013.
  • Ian Richard Netton and Zahia Smail Salhi (eds.), The Arab Diaspora: Voices of an Anguished Scream, Routledge: 2006. Second edition in paperback, 2011.
  • Zahia Smail Salhi (ed.), Gender and Diversity in the Middle East and North Africa, Routledge: 2010. Second edition in paperback, 2013.
  • Zahia Smail Salhi (ed.), Women Writing Africa: the northern region. Associate Editor. New York: Feminist Press, 2009.
  • Zahia Smail Salhi, Politics, Poetics and the Algerian Novel, Lampeter: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1999.