Famous Wombs and Women’s Memories: Gender, Nation, and Life Writing in Today’s Egypt

Marilyn Booth

in May Her Likes Be Multiplied

Published by University of California Press

Published in print July 2001 | ISBN: 9780520224193
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520925212 | DOI:
Famous Wombs and Women’s Memories: Gender, Nation, and Life Writing in Today’s Egypt

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In the 1980s and 1990s, the production of biographical sketches of “Famous Women” proliferated, shifting mostly from the periodical press back into the form of “collected biography,” especially among privately funded Islamist publishing houses. That so many of today's biographical collections are written by men echoes the medieval practice of writing biographical dictionaries, exclusively a male-authored tradition. This chapter compares fifteen collections of biographies of women published from 1978 to 1995 to parallel texts from early in the century. It focuses on these collections' definitions of exemplarity, biographers' subject choice along axes of ethnicity, nationhood, chronology, and communal identity, and on concepts of the female subject as represented in “Famous Women” biography from each era. The chapter asks how the female subject is positioned with regard to assumptions about domesticity and a “public–private” distinction.

Keywords: Egypt; publishing; Famous Women; biographies; biographical dictionaries; ethnicity; nationhood; chronology; communal identity; domesticity

Chapter.  12962 words. 

Subjects: Asian History

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