EUME Berliner Seminar
Mi 19 Jan 2022 | 17:00–18:30

Modernism, Licentiousness, Rebellion: Egypt in the First Half of the Twentieth Century

Eman Elnemr (EUME Fellow 2021/22), Chair: Samuli Schielke (Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient), Translation: Sara Mourad (AUB / EUME Fellow 2021/22)

In her talk, Eman Elnemr will discuss parts of her research on khala‘a, translated as licentiousness or obscenity practiced by women, as a central concept of modernization and rebellion in Egypt during the first half of the 20th century. She calls for a critical interrogation of a problematic concept that obscures violence and at the same time involves rebellion and desire. She argues that therefore it is necessary to understand the historical legacies that have shaped the concept in its strongly normative (pejorative) use in public discourse, daily conduct, and religious and political power today.
The noun khala’a and the adjective khali‘ are derived from the Arabic verb khala‘ which means taking away, letting go, undressing, releasing. In modern use, khala‘a and khali‘ carry a variety of connotations, the foremost of which is the call to debauchery and sex trade. Eman Elnemr’s research project focuses on practices of licentiousness (khala‘a), starting from the assumption that it is a concept and a practice open to many interpretations, including defensive ploys and rebellion against patriarchal structures, whether social, religious, or political. It examines whether these practices can be understood as anti-bourgeois modernization, a space that enhances the possibilities for solidarity among people of different class, gender and religion.

Eman Elnemr received her PhD in modern and contemporary history (2017) from the University of Tanta, Egypt, for her dissertation entitled “Family Businesses in Egypt 1920-1961,” and her MA (2012) for the thesis “The History of Egyptian Theatre and Its Impact on Society (1869-1920).” She published her first book, Egyptian Theatre from the Renaissance to the Revolution of 1919 in 2019 with Dar al-Kutub wa al-Watha’iq al-Qawmiya. Her research interests address hegemonic elite projects and so-called modernization transformations, their effects on society, modes of resistance or responses to them, and public/people’s interventions in shaping them. More specifically, she is concerned with the daily practices of various forms and practices of art and expression that are linked to the transformation of the political economy, including the discourse-making mechanisms that par-take in its construction. In the academic year 2021/22, she is a EUME Fellow.

The talk will be held in Arabic. A translation into English will be provided by Sara Mourad (AUB / EUME Fellow 2021/22). The discussion following the talk will be held in English and Arabic. 

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