In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

122 œ JOURNAL OF MIDDLE EAST WOMEN'S STUDIES Léra and her masculine pseudonym, Marc Helys, are both pseudonyms actually used by Grace Ellison, who would then stand as the master puppeteer behind both Pierre Loti's Les Désenchantées and Zeyneb Hanoum's A Turkish Woman's Impressions ofEurope. Rethinking Orientalism aims "to bring into play a set of historical voices not only as a process ofinformation retrieval (Spivak 1999) but in order to attend to the way that as cultural artefacts they problematise the very issues ofauthenticity that ensured their initial value" (268). There is no question that the voices discussed in this book problematize the issue ofauthenticity in important and puzzling ways. The New Mamluks: Egyptian Society and Modern Feudalism (Middle East Studies beyond Dominant Paradigms) Amira El-Azhary Sonbol. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2000. 292 pages. $ 49.95/cloth $19.95 paper. Farha Ghannam, Department ofSociology and Anthropology, Swarthmore College This ambitious book aims to apply new terms and methods to the study ofEgyptian society in particular and Islamic history in general. The author argues against some dominant concepts such as Oriental despotism, absolutist state, and authoritarianism, which have been dominant in the study ofthe relationship between the state and society in Egypt. To avoid such limiting and limited concepts, Sonbol looks at other important notions such as khassa (people of power and wealth) and 'ämma (public, people, or masses), tujjär (merchants), mamluks (slave princes), and iltizam (tax farm), which have shaped Egyptian power structures since the eighteenth century. Her purpose is to show how these "old relations live in modern times and become a bridge to modernity" (xxii). Stressing the need to go beyond the usual emphasis on Muhammad Ali's rule, Sonbol traces back the birth ofmodern Egypt to the late part of the Mamluk rule of Egypt. In contrast to the usual depiction of this era as violent, chaotic, and "backward," Sonbol describes a dynamic soci- BOOK REVIEWS 123 ety where people had direct access to the legal system and expected (and often got) justice. Looking at court records, Sonbol shows that "law and order were closely linked with social relations and organically linked with the base" (xxv). Unlike this organic relationship that linked the khàssa and amma during the Mamluk rule, the introduction of new economic policies and modern courts under Muhammad Ali and the British established a pattern that separated the two social groups and highlighted the differences between Egyptians and foreigners. The new legal system became less accessible for the 'ämma. For example, during the Mamluk rule, women seemed to have had direct access to work, markets, property, and courts. They had important legal rights when it came to marriage, divorce, and custody that were eroded by the new system. The new laws enacted during the nineteenth century strengthened the power of men (as fathers, husbands, and guardians) and restricted women's rights to divorce and custody. During this period, Western languages, clothes, music, and beauty standards became part ofthe khässa's image ofitself, while Islamic values and norms were viewed by the elite as "a reason for backwardness" (87). Therefore, from 1840 until 1952, a duality existed that financially and culturally separated the khàssa from the 'ämma. During Nasser's rule, very much like the Mamluk rule, the military became the dominant fraction that enjoyed tremendous power and privileges. The "Free Officers became the new mamluks" and the blend of nationalism and socialism produced "a feudal compact" based on reciprocity (129). The state was entitled to people's labor and loyalties and, in return, the state provided the people with security, education, housing, and many other services. The failure to deliver on many ofthese promises created a crisis for the state and its legitimacy. Sonbol argues that Sadat's rule (1970-81), with its liberal economic orientations and strong alliances with Western countries, marked the beginning of"an end to the cultural duality that has been a basic reason for the division of society into khàssa and 'amma" (214). A process of "cultural revivalism" (179) emerged, which has been manifested in the increasing importance ofIslamic discourses, the spread ofcolloquialism, and the integration of...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1558-9579
Print ISSN
1552-5864
Pages
pp. 122-125
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-26
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.