There is perhaps no group of people so ubiquitous and yet so silenced in Western academic scholarship about gender in the Middle East as Saudi women. They symbolize for the Western imagination the most oppressed women in the world, as well as a country that, though a political and economic ally of North America and Europe, is supposedly their antithesis. In particular, the intense gender segregation that Saudi Arabia imposes, the ban on women driving, and the expectation that women cover their faces and bodies in public have become tropes for the country’s “backwardness.” Saudi women themselves, and their opinions and experiences, are rarely heard in Western academic circles, and when they are, they are heavily mediated to prop up preexisting understandings of their oppression. In contrast, Amélie Le Renard’s groundbreaking ethnography provides a richly layered look into...

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