Middle East Studies
English edition  
May  2017
216 pp.
15X23 cm
ISBN 9789774168369
For sale only in Egypt


Medicine and Morality in Egypt

Gender and Sexuality in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries Sherry Sayed Gadelrab

A fascinating study of the creation and recreation of the concept of gender in early modern Egypt

In Middle Eastern and Islamic societies, the politics of sexual knowledge is a delicate and often controversial subject. Sherry Sayed Gadelrab focuses on nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Egypt, claiming that during this period there was a perceptible shift in the medical discourse surrounding conceptualizations of sex differences and the construction of sexuality. Medical authorities began to promote theories that suggested men's innate 'active' sexuality as opposed to women's more 'passive' characteristics, interpreting the differences in female and male bodies to correspond to this hierarchy. Through examining the interconnection of medical, legal, religious, and moral discourses on sexual behavior, Gadelrab highlights the association between sex, sexuality, and the creation and recreation of the concept of gender at this crucial moment in the development of Egyptian society. By analyzing the debates at the time surrounding science, medicine, morality, modernity, and sexuality, she paints a nuanced picture of the Egyptian understanding and manipulation of the concepts of sex and gender.

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Sherry Sayed Gadelrab (1979–2013) studied at the American University in Cairo (AUC) and held a PhD in Middle East Studies from the University of Exeter. Particularly interested in gender and sexuality in Egyptian history, she had, before commencing her doctoral research, been a reporter and editor at the Egyptian Gazette, a freelance translator, and a teaching assistant at AUC.

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"A formidable analysis of a complex and sensitive subject. Builds on a close reading of the large corpus of work on both religious and biological approaches to the subject of Egyptian sexuality to make confident new claims about changing views of sexual difference."—Roger Owen, Professor Emeritus of Middle East History, Harvard University

"A significant contribution to the growing body of work on the history of medicine and sexuality in Egypt and the Middle East more generally."—Alan Mikhail, Professor of History, Yale University

"Sherry Sayed Gadelrab's monograph makes an indispensable and original contribution to our understanding of gender construction and sexuality in Islamic society generally and in Egypt specifically. Particularly noteworthy and original are Gadelrab's use of the fatwas of muftis on issues of gender and sexuality and her assertion of the crucial role that knowledge of the anatomy of the female and male body and scientific and medical theories played in debates about the role of women in society and politics and the alleged inferiority of women."—Mary Ann Fay, Associate Professor of History in the Department of History and Geography at Morgan State University, Baltimore, Maryland

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