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Policing Egyptian Women

Sex, Law, and Medicine in Khedival Egypt

Liat Kozma

Publication Year: 2011

Policing Egyptian Women delineates the intricate manner in which the modern state in Egypt monitored, controlled, and "policed" the bodies of subaltern women. Some of these women were runaway slaves, others were deflowered outside of marriage, and still others were prostitutes. Kozma traces the effects of nineteenth-century developments such as the expansion of cities, the abolition of the slave trade, the formation of a new legal system, and the development of a new forensic medical expertise on these women who lived at the margins of society.

Published by: Syracuse University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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List of Illustrations

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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xiv

This book began with what seemed to be a jewel from a treasure box: a copy of a police record from nineteenth-century Egypt, which my advisor, Khaled Fahmy, had us read in my first year in the graduate program at New York University. It was a story of a young girl who was found in a brothel and insisted that she was still a virgin. This case opened new questions that lured me...

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pp. xv-xxvii

In the winter of 1878, a man brought his daughter, Siddiqa, to Cairo’s police headquarters aft er finding her away from home in the company of a prostitute. At first, Siddiqa told her father that she was still a virgin. He asked female neighbors to examine her, and they confirmed that her hymen was intact. He chose not to trust them, however, took his daughter to the police station, and...

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1. Egyptian Legal Reform

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pp. 1-22

On 27 November 1865, ‘Abdallah ‘Ali Sulayman from Abu al-Waqf village in al-Minya Province in Upper Egypt approached the village qadi and informed him that his maternal cousin Sariyya had been murdered by her maternal and paternal uncles for alleged involvement in extramarital sex. The qadi hastened to contact the district police with only his word and reputation to support...

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2. Medicine, Law, and the Female Body

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pp. 23-49

A Jewish woman named Rahil Fisha was convicted for causing the death of her neighbor, Sarah Cohen, at childbirth in Alexandria. When labor was near and Sarah was agonizing in pain, her sister-in-law asked for Rahil’s help. Rahil advised her to apply some alcohol on the laboring woman’s thighs to intensify her contractions and facilitate birth. The alcohol caught fire and...

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3. Female Slaves, Manumission, and Abolition

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pp. 50-78

On a summer day in 1877, Saluma, a Sudanese freed slave, knocked on a stranger’s door in the Palestinian village of Tira in the Ottoman Nablus Province. Saluma had been kidnapped from Cairo about five months earlier. She was smuggled through al-‘Arish to Tira, along with five other women, to be sold there as slaves. Her kidnappers had sent her to get some bread from a...

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4. Prostitutes and Other Women of Ill Repute

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pp. 79-98

Zanuba, a qadi’s wife by second marriage, left her husband and started working as a prostitute for her cousin Nafisa, who owned a brothel in Bulaq, one of Cairo’s poor neighborhoods. Her husband and father informed the police and asked that she be punished. Along with Nafisa and Zanuba, the police recommended convicting Zanuba’s first husband for encouraging her to...

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5. Virginity, Honor, and Premarital Defloration

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pp. 99-116

On the night of 24 June 1863, Alexandrian merchant Muhammad Harun claimed that his newly wedded wife, Asma, was not a virgin on their wedding night. He also concealed the “evidence” of her virginity—her blood-stained garments. Her mother and maternal uncle hastened to contact authorities. A hakima who examined her at the police station confirmed that Asma had been...

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pp. 117-121

Patriarchal control of women, communal and familial control of women’s conduct took a different shape in 1882, on the eve of British occupation of Egypt, than they had but half a century earlier. New actors were now policing the conduct of women and girls. Policemen arrested runaway daughters and slaves— women who could not satisfactory explain their presence outdoors in...


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pp. 125-126


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pp. 127-152


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pp. 153-167


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pp. 169-174

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780815651345
E-ISBN-10: 0815651341
Print-ISBN-13: 9780815632818
Print-ISBN-10: 0815632819

Page Count: 200
Illustrations: 3 black and white illustrations
Publication Year: 2011