Dr. Hoda Elsadda of Manchester University presented an overview of her paper, "The 'Arab Woman' as an Object of Study: A Critical Analysis of the AHDR 2005," to the Gender and Public Policy Research Seminar Series on October 16. The paper examines the Arab Human Development Report 2005: Towards the Rise of Women in the Arab World, with the purpose of raising questions regarding the geopolitics of the production and consumption of knowledge. Dr. Elsadda deconstructed the report by questioning the dominant discursive foundations shaping our understanding and asking "who produces knowledge and for what purpose?" While noting the difficulty of producing such a document, as well as the inherent problems of translation, Dr. Elsadda asserted that the report falls within the dominant analytical narrative of "the Arab woman."
Professor Hoda Elsadda currently holds a Chair in the Study of the Contemporary Arab World at Manchester University. In 1992, she co-founded and co-edited Hagar, an interdisciplinary journal in women's studies published in Arabic. She has written articles and edited two books dealing with discourses on gender in modern Arab history, particularly in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. She has argued that a revision of the dominant modernist discourses in the twentieth century that takes into consideration gender as a category of analysis will lead to a revision of some of the assumed ideological dichotomies that dominate Arab history.
In addition to her scholarly interest in gender in Arab cultural history, she has been engaged in activist campaigns and has founded and participated in independent women's groups and projects in Egypt and the Arab world since 1992. In 1997, she co-founded (and was Director of between 1997-2000; and 2004-2005) the Women and Memory Forum, a research organization which brought together researchers and activists focusing on rereading Arab cultural history from a gender-sensitive perspective. The Forum has played an important role in promoting the field of gender studies in the Arab world through various activities, conferences and publications.