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Unveiling the harem : elite women and the paradox of seclusion in eighteenth-century Cairo /
Mary Ann Fay.
1st ed.
Syracuse, N.Y. : Syracuse University Press, 2012.
xvii, 331 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.
0815632932 (cloth : alk. paper), 9780815632931 (cloth : alk. paper)
More Details
Syracuse, N.Y. : Syracuse University Press, 2012.
0815632932 (cloth : alk. paper)
9780815632931 (cloth : alk. paper)
contents note
Reimagining the harem: from orientalist fantasies to historical reconstruction -- Egypt in the eighteenth century: the transition from the medieval to the early modern -- Slaves in the family: Islam, household slavery, and the construction of kinship -- The Mamluk household: how a house became a home -- Mamluk women and the Egyptian economy: a comparative perspective on women's property rights -- The city as text: space, gender, and power in Cairo -- The architecture of seclusion: in search of the historical harem -- Everyday life in the harem -- Changing the subject: gender and the history of the Mamluk revival -- Epilogue.
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references (p. 311-325) and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2013-02-01:
Studies of women in the Middle East have shifted from a focus on oppression and victimhood to resistance and empowerment. Fay (Morgan State Univ.) goes one step further by casting the institution of the harem in a positive light. Focusing on life in a powerful Mamluk household in 18th-century Cairo, she examines the role of slavery in the social promotion of women. The author traces three women who were brought in as young slaves before becoming concubines and eventually marrying powerful men. She suggests that Shari'a law was a major factor in women's rise from slavery to freedom to power. Under Shari'a law, women had (and still have) the right to own, inherit, and manage property; they also have legal personhood. Furthermore, the law gave a status to slaves and did not forbid miscegenation, thereby impeding hereditary slavery. Fay uniquely attempts to de-center readers by effectively stressing the similarities between Middle Eastern and Western cultural constructions of gender inequality. However, she conflates slavery, seclusion, and gender inequality and underplays the negative side of women's loss of sexual autonomy as they are passed from husband to husband's relative in a kinship-based political system that reduces women to their sex and reproductive capacity. Summing Up: Recommended. Most levels/libraries. M. Lazreg Hunter College, CUNY
This item was reviewed in:
Reference & Research Book News, December 2012
Choice, February 2013
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrationsp. ix
List of Tablesp. xi
Acknowledgmentsp. xiii
A Note on the Transliterationp. xvii
Introductionp. 1
The Harem in Theory, in Practice, and in the European Imagination
Reimagining the Harem: From Orientalist Fantasies to Historical Reconstructionp. 23
Egypt in the Eighteenth Century: The Transition from the Medieval to the Early Modernp. 45
Becoming a Mamluk
Slaves in the Family: Islam, Household Slavery, and the Construction of Kinshipp. 69
The Mamluk Household How a House Became a Homep. 91
Life in Cairo: City, Neighborhood, Home
Mamluk Women and the Egyptian Economy A Comparative Perspective on Women's Property Rightsp. 123
The City as Text Space, Gender, and Power in Cairop. 155
The Architecture of Seclusion In Search of the Historical Haremp. 183
Everyday Life in the Haremp. 215
Gender, History, and the Harem
Changing the Subject: Gender and the History of the Mamluk Revivalp. 233
Epiloguep. 258
Notesp. 273
Glossaryp. 303
Bibliographyp. 311
Indexp. 327
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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