Swarthmore College Expert on the Role of Gender Dynamics in Egypt

Released: 1/29/2014 11:00 AM EST
Source Newsroom: Swarthmore College
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Newswise — The recent social and political changes in Egypt have prompted new interest in gender distinctions in the country. In a new book Live and Die Like a Man: Gender Dynamics in Urban Egypt, Associate Professor of Anthropology Farha Ghannam shifts the attention from women, the usual focus of media and most scholarly work, to the men of Egypt and how masculinity is actualized and reproduced in daily life.

Her work in studying how masculinity is viewed in Egypt has provided her with a keen understanding of the public's perceptions of deposed ex-president Mohamed Morsi and of popular general Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

For her book, Ghannam draws on 20 years of anthropological research in a low-income neighborhood in northern Cairo, not far from Tahrir Square, the focal point for the 2011 revolution. Like many other scholars, Ghannam was originally interested in the study of the female body but over time recognized the importance of studying men, their embodiment, and gendered identities.

In Ghannam's view, a "real man" in Egyptian society is a complex ideal that encompasses a lot of different norms and values.

"He should be assertive, but gentle. Tough, but kind-hearted. Brave, but caring. These qualities might seem contradictory but they are context bound," says Ghannam.

Her knowledge of these social views helped her understand the negative feelings among many Egyptians towards Morsi and the strong support for Sisi. According to Ghannam, while Morsi often was seen as kindhearted, most people came to see him as lacking the strength, assertiveness, and skills needed to rule the whole nation and establish security in Cairo and the rest of the country. In contrast, she says that Sisi is seen as assertive, firm, and strong but at the same time as caring, compassionate, and trustworthy.

Learn more about Farha's book at the following link: http://ow.ly/sxLax


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