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Contents:


  1. Gendered Subjects in Ottoman Constitutional Agreements, ca.
  2. Most Read Articles
  3. Women and Men in Late Eighteenth-Century Egypt
  4. The New Middle East

All the eras have been defined by the interplay of contending forces, both internal and external to the region. What has varied is the balance between these influences. The Middle East's next era promises to be one in which outside actors have a relatively modest impact and local forces enjoy the upper hand -- and in which the local actors gaining power are radicals committed to changing the status quo. Shaping the new Middle East from the outside will be exceedingly difficult, but it -- along with managing a dynamic Asia -- will be the primary challenge of U.

The modern Middle East was born in the late eighteenth century.

Gendered Subjects in Ottoman Constitutional Agreements, ca.

For some historians, the signal event was the signing of the treaty that ended the war between the Ottoman Empire and Russia; a stronger case can be made for the importance of Napoleon's relatively easy entry into Egypt in , which showed Europeans that the region was ripe for conquest and prompted Arab and Muslim intellectuals to ask -- as many continue to do today -- why their civilization had fallen so far behind that of Christian Europe. Ottoman decline combined with European penetration into the region gave rise to the "Eastern Question," regarding how to deal with the effects of the decline of the Ottoman Empire, which various parties.

This site uses cookies to improve your user experience. Generally they travelled with husbands, brothers or fathers but an increasing number of them travelled alone or with female companions.

Their motives for travel and their experiences of it differed widely, as did their published accounts and perceptions of places as culturally diverse and geographically distant as urban Damascus and rural China. All of them, however, were influenced to a greater or lesser extent by the ideas and the realities of European imperial and colonial expansionism. Chapter 6.

Most Read Articles

While philanthropy and religion gave many European women a feminine and socially conservative opportunity to participate in the imperial mission civilisatrice , there were other women travellers who were more explicitly interested in identifying themselves as independent explorers and who became involved, deliberately or by chance, in the more masculine sphere of European geopolitics. Harriet Martineau, in particular, had established that women could be successful in popular, professional journalism. Princess Cristina di Belgiojoso, although from a wealthy aristocratic background, also published widely in political and literary journals.

Cristina, for her part, produced her scurrilous and dismissive account of the strangely dressed English missionary couple she met on the road to Beirut who, from her description, could not have been the Finns but whose work the Finns would surely have endorsed. Among them was Carla Serena, like Cristina di Belgiojoso a veteran of the European upheavals of and like Harriet Martineau a successful journalist.

Belgian by birth and Venetian by adoption, she was born in Antwerp in and later married Leone Serena, a shipping broker closely associated with Daniele Manin and the short-lived Venetian Republic. She went into exile with her husband in and travelled with him to Marseilles, Paris and back to Belgium before eventually settling in London. In August she set off alone on an extraordinary six-year journey, beginning in Stockholm and travelling first to St Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev and across the Black Sea to Istanbul. From there she went on to Cairo and Jerusalem where she spent a month but declared that the Holy Land was beyond her descriptive capabilities.

The most interesting part of her journey was the route through Georgia and across the politically unstable Caucasus, after which she claimed to have been the first single European woman to penetrate the region. Chapter 7. In the s the emergence of archaeology and, in particular, Egyptology as a scientific academic activity provided a new opportunity for educated and ambitious women with an interest in both scholarship and travel.


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During her very long and distinguished career she consistently fought for and advanced the status of women archaeologists both in the academy and in the field. Women had already been involved, often unacknowledged, in some of the early antiquarian explorations in the East. More well-known, Sarah Belzoni not only accompanied and assisted her husband, Giovanni, on his excavations in Egypt but she also travelled alone to the Sinai peninsula and Palestine. The development of Egyptology and modern archaeology as a scientific discipline owed much to the energy and imagination of another woman, Amelia Edwards, co-founder of both the Department of Egyptology at University College and the Egyptian Exploration Fund.

Changing Cityscapes in the Transition from Empire to Nation State

Edwards came to archaeology in mid-life after building a successful career as a novelist, journalist and travel writer. Chapter 8. The journeys of Lady Anne Blunt and Gertrude Bell into the heart of Arabia epitomize the romanticism and mythology of the European Orientalist travel narrative.


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Egypt at the end of the nineteenth century was at the literary center of the Arabic-speaking world, sparking social and cultural transformations that would influence the rest of the Middle East for the next century. With its relative autonomy from the Ottoman system, its regional influence, and its large urban centers that attracted immigrants from much of the eastern Mediterranean world, the events and movements that started or developed in Egypt rarely stayed there. As a result, this period has received particular notice as a turning point in the creation of Egyptian, and wider Arab, sensibilities about gender, political and civic activism, and cultural authenticity.

In this historical trajectory, though the social import of education and literacy are assumed, the mechanics of how literacy or education actually produces social change within, and beyond, the circle of these educated elites are rarely unpacked or examined.

The major contributions of this book lie in the interrogation of the everyday literacies of Egyptian men and women during this crucial period through the tri-part lens of gendered public literacies —that is, broad-based literacies that changed the contours of public spaces and had lasting implications for gendered uses of literacy.

Literacy, by its most limited definition, is the product of formal education, which in Egypt at the time was the purview of the few. However, once we focus on literacies as sets of skills—reading, writing, and their related practices—available to the many, historians can begin to look beyond the confines of schools or those who had access to education. This approach requires a delicate balance between the totalizing aspects of institutional education and the ways in which literacy practices manifested in everyday interactions. Perhaps no state institution represents the full power of states to impose on young citizens not only specific reading and writing practices but also the wholesale indoctrination of social values more than a mass educational system.

However, there is a flip side to this power: the aspirations of a mass educational system were not absolute in their reach or implementation. In fact, despite moves to bring education under state control starting in the s, it took decades for even the ideal of a mass educational system to arise as a pursuable government goal in the s and s. It would take several more decades before a true mass educational system was actually implemented in any systematic and wholesale way.

Furthermore, among the many subjects that educational institutions sought to instill, literacy was a particularly mutable skill. The subversive nature of reading and, particularly, writing for those who were not wealthy, urban, and male, was not lost on educators of the time.

However, every indication—and human nature being what it is—suggests that literacy was not so easily monopolized. Love stories were read, political pamphlets were distributed, and reading and writing became means for many to express their unfettered views.

Women and Men in Late Eighteenth-Century Egypt

Petitioners used prevailing reformist discourses to make their case for improving their economic circumstances. Women used writing to thrust themselves and their words into various literary spheres. Egyptians often preferred fiction, romance, and adventure to reading materials that could be deemed more socially beneficial and intellectually edifying.

Diverse literacy practices were becoming a part of the social life of Egyptians. The second contribution of this book lies in its focus on various public spaces as central domains for transformation in social understandings of and relationships with the written word.

The New Middle East

Reading and writing can be deeply personal and isolating practices. In fact, as more individuals became literate, many communal practices eventually gave way to individual literacies. The spaces and mediators of literacy shifted away from the community scribe and the group reading of newspapers and letters to the more private realms of personal writing and silent reading. However, at the turn of the century, Egypt was still very much in transition. The official male literacy rates, even for major urban areas, were only 20 to 30 percent, and communal practices still dominated social life.

Furthermore, reading and writing coupled with the new technologies of print opened new possibilities for communication among people in public.

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This type of communication—via newspapers, journals, petitions, books, and pamphlets—had profound implications for the development of an Egyptian national consciousness, displays and protests, and the role of women in communal life. Central to all these changes is the idea of visibility and its implications for public spaces. Indeed, written language itself is a type of visual disclosure, transposing the aural into the physical world. Once words are written they are no longer ephemeral, they become fixed in a corporeal space that can be decoded by anyone with access to the text and the ability to read.

The use of printing presses only compounds the visibility and latent power of these texts, because they can be multiplied, moved, spread, and seen over and over again. Ideas, complaints, and requests that were once private or semiprivate can be shared broadly. Debates behind closed doors can reach large segments of society. Written language has always had the potential to reach broad audiences as an extension of the communicative nature of oral language. One can argue that most societies with at least some semblance of a written tradition have developed text-based public spheres at one time or another.

In modern societies, the public sphere and language have taken on new relevance. One of the central conditions of these public spheres was the emergence of an autonomous press that allowed news and debates to enter into the social awareness of the reading public. Benedict Anderson has elaborated on the role of the press in developing national consciousness, emphasizing the importance of what he terms print-capitalism.

In this book I focus on an expanded understanding of literacy as it relates to communal spaces of shared exchange and debate. In the process, I do not restate or reformulate the argument that the press and its relationship to various public spheres significantly transformed Egyptian conceptions of national sentiment or communal interest. Rather, what I provide here is a study of the literacy practices and gendered uses of the written word that reached far beyond a traditionally male, urban, and highly visible textual public. Once we fracture the notion of literacy into literacies, the publics they create are also multiplied.

The very notion of a unitary reading and writing public—in other words, a single public sphere where a reader is also assumed to be a writer—made little sense in communities where there was a very sharp distinction between those who created and those who consumed written texts. Indeed, during this period, the skills of reading and writing were gendered, used, and often learned separately. As a result, the practices associated with these separate skills often gave individuals access to particular aspects of communal literacies, to the exclusion of others.

Significantly, neither action would require formal literacy and could be undertaken by a person of almost any socioeconomic background. As a result, rather than limiting my scope to textual material as such and to the producers and consumers of these works, I look at a range of literacy practices that embodied interactions with communal life via the written word. These interactions that lie between the acts of reading and writing, between the word and its social implications, between the use and negotiation inherent in deploying written text, are at the heart of this work.

Finally, these public literacies were inextricably linked to gendered interactions with the written word. Traditionally, written literacies were the preserve of a small, educated, and most definitely masculine segment of society. However, during this period, new educational opportunities and the possibility of social mobility associated with schooling meant that literacy also implied a movement from rural to urban life, from the farm to the office, and from old ideas of Egyptian masculinity to new ones.

For a man to engage in particular public literacy practices was to perform one of the essential acts of modern Egyptian life. In doing so, Nawfal was engaging in what would become one of the defining practices of masculine literacies at the time: commenting and proscribing what literacy was to mean for both men and women in Egyptian society. However, public performances of literacy were not always deemed sufficiently masculine, or without their dangers.

Writing was at once a powerful action and an ambiguous one for the wrong sort of person. Literacy did not always enhance the masculinity of a peasant, for whom it could be perceived as frivolous and a waste of time. For women, literacies had very different implications. To write in public was to become observable, named, and known beyond an immediate social sphere; it was a move from the familial to the public and from the secluded to the visible.

This written visibility was a double-edged sword.