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Masculinities in Egypt and the Arab World

March 21, 2012

“Khalik gaada,” Arab boys are told again and again growing up. “Be a man!” But what does masculinity mean in the contemporary Middle East? Arab masculinities is the topic of a conference next week in Cairo

I just got an invitation for a symposium next week in Cairo.

Let’s see… March 31st I’ll be flying to San Diego for the International Studies Association conference. I’m looking forward to it but I wish I could be in Cairo, not in the least so I could attend the Cairo Papers in Social Science Twentieth Annual Symposium.

The topic is “Masculinities in Egypt and the Arab World: Historical, Literary, and Social Science Perspectives.It’s a very interesting topic. Arab boys are told again and again growing up, “Khalik gaada,” (Be a man!).  But what does masculinity mean in the contemporary Middle East?

In other words:

This symposium will highlight cutting edge research in masculinity studies in Egypt and the Arab world from various theoretical, literary, historical, feminist and social science perspectives. Some of the major themes that will be covered in this symposium are: women’s rights movements/organizations engagement with masculinities, contemporary enactments of masculinity and sexuality within everyday practice among Arab youth, depictions of masculinities in Arab film and fiction, and masculinity and marriage in early 20th century Egypt.

In my lecture on the topic in my Anthropology of the Middle East course, I speak of masculinities as constructed in terms of six items:

  • Circumcision
  • Marriage
  • Virility
  • Male Friends
  • Shaham
  • Wasta

although one could focus on plenty of other things as well.

The conference also has huge nostalgia value.

Cairo Papers in Social Science is an in-house American University in Cairo publication series that publishes revised versions of the very best dissertations at AUC, as well as collections of papers from conferences like this one.

One of my former AUC colleagues, Helen Rizzo, will be presenting.

Even more exciting, my former graduate student Mustafa Abdalla, who was also my erstwhile host in 2005, will be presenting a paper. Mustafa is the author of Beach Politics: Gender and Sexuality in Dahab (AUC Press, 2006) a slim but eye-opening book that is the basis for a lecture I give every year in my Intercultural Relations class.

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