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Public Defence: Piety and Power

Master Laila Makboul at the Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages will be defending her thesis "Pious Power: Epistemology, Discourses and Practices of Female Intellectual Preachers in Saudi Arabia" for the degree of PhD (Philosophiae Doctor).

Laila Makboul


Behind the most popular female Twitter accounts in Saudi Arabia are women known as intellectual preachers. These women use social media frequently, but unlike celebrities and popular influencers they share little material of a personal nature. Their physical appearance, for instance, is hidden from the public. Still, with their millions of followers they are very popular in social media, well represented in literary channels, and active in educational institutions as academics and professors.

Who are these women and what can they tell us about female preachers participation in the public sphere?

Based on extensive fieldwork, interviews, and primary sources, Makboul has investigated the historical context behind the emergence of the phenomenon of female intellectual preachers, their discourse and involvement in the public sphere. As a part of the broader religious-social movement known as Sahwa, she has also tried to explain what their presence can tell us about female Islamists' involvement in religious, cultural, social, and political domains.

As preachers, these women see their work as a moral duty and use missionizing to expand their scope of action in the public sphere. As intellectuals, they take part in public debates outside of the purely religious matters with an understanding of Islam as an all-encompassing religion. In the longer run, their involvement has as its over-arching goal to work against all forms of secularization of the Saudi society, and to combat what they identify as different forms of Western post-colonial imperialism.

Trial Lecture – time and place

Thursday June 13th, 2019, at 16.15, Arne Næss auditorium, Georg Morgenstiernes hus, "Religious Transformations in the Saudi Arabia of King Salman and His Son - Looking Beneath the Propaganda"

Adjudication committee

    • Associate Professor Steffen Hertog, London School of Economics and Political Science (first opponent)
    • Professor Jakob Skovgaard-Petersen, University of Copenhagen (second opponent)
    • Professor Berit Thorsbjørnsrud, University of Oslo (administrator)

    Chair of the Defence

    Head of Department Bjørn Olav Utvik


    Published June 9, 2019 2:44 PM - Last modified Mar. 17, 2020 10:21 PM