The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) remains cloaked in mystery and stereotypes especially when it pertains to its female population. Oppression? Subjugation? Discontent? These typecasts reverberate around the world, but interestingly when one speaks to a Saudi woman her story offers diverging representations of Saudi life that often debunk those expressed elsewhere. But without scholars asking “real” people about their lives and analyzing their lived responses, these dominant narratives are reaffirmed over and over again. To move beyond these stereotypes, this paper attempts to address the lives of Saudi Arabian females by using firsthand accounts obtained for an undergraduate student project. “The Oral History Project”, initiated by the two authors using traditional oral history methods to teach history, geography and leadership at a private university in the kingdom, has female students interviewing family members about their past focusing on topics such as their life, family, tribe, and transformations due to modernity. The goal is to focus on the female perspective. Students asked common questions such as: What is life-like for a Saudi woman? How does it differ from when you were a child? How have women navigated the constraints of a traditional society and how do they perceive themselves in it? Familial responses were recorded, translated, and transcribed to create an overview of each family’s history.
Winkel, Carmen and Strachan, Laura
Through the eyes of a woman: Using oral history to explore the enigmatic world of Saudi Arabia’s female population.
Journal of International Women's Studies, 21(6), 83-100.
Available at: https://vc.bridgew.edu/jiws/vol21/iss6/5