For decades, development narratives and initiatives have shaped the social and political agenda of Egypt’s rulers and their opponents. The benign influences of development actors, activists, programs and dialogues have been of particular significance to women on the whole and middle class women in particular.
That was before revolution and the dramatic political turmoil, which ensued, unravelled the happy association between women, development and justice. The lecture tells a story of recent events from a participant’s/native’s point of view. It considers the pathos and power of gender politics as women in Egypt have moved to centre stage as victims of aggression, as voters and ‘king’ makers, as agents of change, as guardians of stability, as symbols of the future and as subjects of debate.
The events of the past four years call into question many of development’s wisdoms on gender justice and equality. They illustrate the extent to which some of these narratives have become routinised and thereby are easily manipulated or subverted. The lecture considers the importance of including the ‘state’ and its national character and preferences as a key determinant of what development can and cannot do to address the needs and rights of women.
It suggests that development practices are inadequate and problematic when they are isolated from the real world of conflicts and competitions but also considers the difficulties of challenging the state on behalf of its citizens without gaining the political credentials that make these challenges feasible.
About the speaker
Hania Sholkamy is an Egyptian anthropologist with a PhD from the London School of Economics and Political Sciences, The University of London. She obtained her BA and MA from the American University in Cairo (AUC). She is currently assistant professor at the Social Research Center of the AUC and is also affiliated with the Forced Migration and Refugee Studies Program of the university.
Prior to her current position she has held positions with the department of anthropology of the AUC, has been a Research Associate at the International Population Council and was the Ioma Evans Pritchard Junior Research Fellow at St. Anne’s College, Oxford University. Her research interests and publications are mainly in the fields of health, particularly reproductive health, gender, population and qualitative methods.
She has co-edited two volumes, one titled Categories and Contexts: Anthropological and Historical Studies in Critical Demography (OUP) with S. Szreter and A. Dharmalingam and another titled Health and Identity in Egypt (AUC press) with F. Ghanam.
She has been a member of various professional associations including The Reproductive Health Working Group (current), the Committee on Anthropology and Demography of the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (1998-2002) and the Advisory Committee of the Middle East Awards program of the International Population Council (2002/3). She is also a member of the executive committee of the Institute for Gender and Women’s Studies of the AUC, A fellow of the Economic Research Forum, and a member of the International Faculty of the Arab Gulf University in Bahrain.