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Accepted Paper:

Egyptian middle class masculinity and its "masculine other"  
Bard Kartveit (University of Oslo)

Paper short abstract:

Based on fieldwork Alexandria, Egypt, this paper will focus on the formation of middle class masculine subjectivities, and the notion of the ‘predatory working class man’ as their ‘masculine other.’

Paper long abstract:

In recent years, new ethnographies on Middle Eastern masculinities have offered nuanced and emphatic portrayals of men in the Middle East. By exploring how masculine ideals and practices varies within the region, change with age, across generations, and in response to social and economic pressures, scholars have challenged Western constructs of Arab men as oppressive patriarchs, sexual predators and religious zealots. At the same time, some of these constructs are found in the Middle East as well, where they serve multiple functions.

Based on fieldwork in the city of Alexandria, this paper will focus on the formation of masculine subjectivities among Middle Class Egyptians, both Muslims and Copts. In this setting, some young men place conjugal connectivity at the center of their masculine aspirations, explicitly striving towards greater skills at communicating with their fiancés or wives, and greater sensitivity towards their needs. In doing so, they define themselves in opposition to men of earlier generations, but also in opposition to the 'uneducated,' 'predatory' working class man that constitutes their 'masculine other.' Seen as lacking in culture and civility, as representing a thuggish form of masculinity, these men are widely regarded as sources of trouble, and as perpetrators of harassment in public spaces. Highlighting the importance of class, this paper will explore how the construct of a working class 'masculine other' demarcates class-based social boundaries, serves to emphasize the virtues of a 'softer' masculinity among middle class men, and to highlight their responsibility in protecting 'their' women from unwanted male attention.

Panel P001
Anthropology of the "New Arab Man"
  Session 1