This essay positions Egyptian physician, novelist, and activist Nawal El Saadawi's understudied novel God Dies by the Nile within a broader framework of Egyptian revolutionary movements. It analyzes representations of the peasantry—which, historically, symbolize Egyptian nationalism—and argues that British and American (neo)colonial intervention in Egyptian policies has legitimized patriarchal violence while disrupting the subaltern family unit through the misuse of religious rites; as a result, women, especially, become victims of sexual exploitation and forced labor. By focusing on the heroine's political awakening through her participation in a Zar ritual, a folklore exorcist practice, the paper highlights the importance of the ritual's failure in subverting the matrimony between Islam, patriarchy, and capitalism. The novel thus overturns preexisting beliefs concerning peasant oppression and foregrounds the significance of non-linguistic modes of political awakening, class-consciousness, concerted collective action, and, ultimately, national revolt.


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pp. 39-57
Launched on MUSE
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