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This article uncovers the social and cultural dynamics that constructed the worth and meaning of romantic love as part of the hegemonic social order in postcolonial Egypt. In the two-and-a-half decades following the 1952 Revolution, Egyptian higher education underwent significant developments. The state initiated reforms that increased the number of students significantly. Additionally, the demographic composition of the student body became more diverse in terms of class and gender. These changes made university campuses a potential venue for finding one's future spouse. However, as I will show, the desirability of marrying someone met through and during academic studies also indicates an emotional change toward a positive valuation of premarital love relationships.
This emotional change, I will argue, was the result of the interplay between the demographic diversification of university campuses and values and practices of gender relations that dominant cultural producers and their audiences cultivated. Following Barbara Rosenwein, I consider this group of cultural producers that belonged to the prerevolutionary effendiyya as an emotional community. Their values regarding premarital love were grounded in the modernist discourses that idealized the nuclear family and perceived the intimacy between the married couple as essential for its stability. However, an analysis of the press, particularly advice columns, indicates an awareness of the ambiguities often generated by patriarchal concepts upheld by families. In producing the hegemony of premarital love, cultural producers incorporated, to some extent, these patriarchal perceptions.