Bargaining with the devil: States and intimate life

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title

Repository Usage Stats


Citation Stats


Since the 1980s, an explosion in state, international, and nongovernmental campaigns and programs propose to increase women's rights and protections in Arab countries. Women and women's rights activists often invite and appeal to male-dominated states to regulate, intervene, or change the rules in sexual and family life in order to address a range of problems and challenges, including lack of economic and other resources, political and citizenship exclusions, or intimate violence. What are the implications of relying on states as the main arbiters of rights and protections This is a longstanding feminist question whose answer hinges on underlying assumptions and theories about states and governance. Reliance on states as the primary sources of protection and support in intimate life has largely worked to rearticulate gendered, economic, and other inequitable power relations, bolster states, reconstitute state authority over intimate domains, and limit possibilities for gendered, sexual, and kin subjectivities and affinities. This dynamic may be metaphorically described as a "devil's bargain" since state-delivered rights and protections in these realms are so often attached to important restrictions and foreclosures. The article conceptually and theoretically expands on my research on family law projects in Egypt and the United Arab Emirates in Consuming Desires: Family Crisis and the State in the Middle East (Stanford University Press, 2011). Its title is inspired by Deniz Kandiyoti's influential article, "Bargaining with Patriarchy" (Gender & Society, 1988), which I re-engage for analytical purposes. © 2014 Journal of Middle East Women's Studies.





Published Version (Please cite this version)


Publication Info

Hasso, FS (2014). Bargaining with the devil: States and intimate life. Journal of Middle East Women's Studies, 10(2). pp. 107–134. 10.1353/jmw.2014.0019 Retrieved from

This is constructed from limited available data and may be imprecise. To cite this article, please review & use the official citation provided by the journal.



Frances S. Hasso

Professor of Gender, Sexuality & Feminist Studies

I am a Professor in the Program in Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies at Duke University with secondary appointments in the Department of History and Department of Sociology.  I taught in and directed the International Comparative Studies Program at Duke from 2010-2015 and was a member of the Oberlin College faculty from 2000-2010. I am Editor Emerita (2015-2018) of the Journal of Middle East Women's Studies. I have been a National Humanities Center fellow, an ACOR fellow, a Rockefeller fellow, and an SSRC/ACLS fellow. My research has additionally been supported by the National Science Foundation, American Sociological Association, Woodrow Wilson National National Fellowship Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Palestinian American Research Center, the Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World (Leiden), The Josiah Charles Trent Memorial Foundation Endowment, and Duke Arts & Sciences Faculty Committee Research Grants. My latest book, Buried in the Red Dirt: Race, Reproduction and Death in Modern Palestine, is released from Cambridge University Press as a Creative Commons Open Access monograph. Many of my publications are accessible open access through my personal website I can be reached at

Unless otherwise indicated, scholarly articles published by Duke faculty members are made available here with a CC-BY-NC (Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial) license, as enabled by the Duke Open Access Policy. If you wish to use the materials in ways not already permitted under CC-BY-NC, please consult the copyright owner. Other materials are made available here through the author’s grant of a non-exclusive license to make their work openly accessible.