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Women in post-revolutionary Egypt

Can Behaviour Be Controlled?


Mette Toft Nielsen and Hervik Peter

This book addresses how identity, structures, and agency affect women’s everyday lives in post-revolutionary Egypt. The authors analyses the topic both on a macro- as well as on a micro-level. Through interviews and workshops, women around Egypt express their own experiences in dialogue, in groups and in drawings. Based on the analysis of this material the reader gets insights into personal experiences, believes and opinions of a diverse group of women in terms of age, economic class, education, geography, culture, religion, ethnicity, marital status, and political orientation. The detail-rich empirical material presented in the book visualize that the 2011 revolution works as an utter frame on a macro-level, while different issues are more pressing on a micro-level.

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“A backlash against women’s rights emerged in post-revolutionary Egypt”2 Aliaa Dawoud argued in a 2012 study. In addition the Thompson Reuters Foundation released a study in 2013, which ranked Egypt the bottom most country for women in the Arab world when it comes to ‘violence against women, reproductive rights, treatment of women within the family, their integration into society and attitudes towards a woman’s role in politics and the economy’. It further concluded that ‘sexual harassment is epidemic […] and likely to stay that way as it appears to be socially acceptable and not taken seriously by the authorities or society as a whole’. These depressing accounts are supported by numerous studies by Western-dominated organizations and agencies such as the UN Women, which continuously reports about the high prevalence of female circumcision,3 and UNICEF, which outlines the damaging consequences of child marriage.4

Focus on these realities is important because of the seriousness of the problems towards which attention and ambitious, productive solutions must be directed. Such focus does, at the same time, play into the discourse highlighted by Lila Abu-Lughod in the article ‘Do Muslim Women need saving?’ in which she counters the idea that the exotic brown woman needs to be saved by the heroic white man, from the barbaric brown man! Along those lines one could further add, ‘in a culture that is stagnant, primitive and uncivilized’.

In light of such discourse it is easy to think that if Egyptian...

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