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15 - Sex in Nineteenth-Century Cairo

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 April 2024

Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks
University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
Mathew Kuefler
San Diego State University
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Sex in nineteenth-century Cairo played out on a stage of relentless change and adaptation. The city’s urban life witnessed a significant rise in population growth, transformations in family and household structures, the rise of an Egyptian nationalist elite, and the gradual demise of African and Circassian slavery. Because of the divergent approaches taken with this topic, this chapter focuses on the unequal power relations that shaped Cairene sex, using canonical texts and archival documents to tease out the connections between sex and family life, nationalism, slavery, the justice system, and sex work. Specifically emphasized are stories and narratives written by literate Egyptians and Europeans, and how their ideas of domesticity, freedom, and political authority operated in relation to sexual practices. In doing so an explanation of sex in nineteenth-century Cairo is put forward that highlights celebrated and forgotten sources, prioritizing key works that inform our current understandings of sex. The chapter discusses memoirs and political treatises written by prominent Egyptian nationalists, explores the rich possibilities raised by archival records and their differences from European traveller accounts, and concludes with what nineteenth-century sources can (and cannot) tell us about queer ideas of sex.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2024

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Further Reading

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