Date of Submission

Fall 12-10-2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in International Conflict Management (Ph.D. INCM)

Committee Chair/First Advisor

Dr. Maia Hallward

Committee Member

Dr. Christie Emerson

Committee Member

Dr. Rachel Brown


This dissertation seeks to examine the origins and impact of the international development discourse of “women’s empowerment” through a case study of a “developing nation”, according to discursive categorizations. The research and analysis start from the perspective that all knowledge is socially constructed, that power structures and imbalances contribute to discourse, and that the international development discourse of women’s empowerment carries with it a counterproductive neoliberal agenda. I therefore seek to uncover and analyze the ways in which this discourse enters and impacts women’s narratives of empowerment, and by extension the social world in which they exist. Acknowledging that the concept of women’s empowerment means many different things to different people, this study specifically unpacks the impact of this meaning-making, rather than the meaning itself.

The research focuses on Oman because it simultaneously represents a country that has received accolades for its development and gender policies, maintains a position of support for the empowerment of women, but is also situated within a region experiencing a severe dearth of critical literature and knowledge related to women’s empowerment. Importantly, and based on the work of transnational feminist scholars, this dissertation takes intersectional and transnational differences into account when analyzing the political, historical, racial and economic dimensions of the impact of international development discourse of women’s empowerment. Specifically, this study asks what international development discourses inform the dominant narratives maintained by women in Oman, what impact or tangible changes from the discourse are notable at the individual and state level, and who benefits from these impacts. In seeking answers to these questions, the analysis reflects on the way in which data and knowledge production translates to power from the global to local context as examined through personal narratives of 85 women who participated in this study in Oman. It concludes that the neoliberal international women’s empowerment discourse contributes to limiting personal agency, political mobilization, and women’s transnational liberation.

Available for download on Wednesday, December 08, 2027