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Accepted Paper:

Being a Syrian, a refugee and a man in contemporary Egypt  
Magdalena Suerbaum (Bielefeld University)

Paper short abstract:

Syrian refugee men in Cairo have to negotiate traditional representations of manhood with their lived reality. A focus on changes in Syrian men's work and marriage patterns and on the construction of the Egyptian man as the 'Other' can give insight into current ideas of 'Arab masculinity'.

Paper long abstract:

This paper discusses how Syrian men in Cairo - most of whom live there since 2012 - renegotiated masculinity after forced displacement. Findings are based on fourteen months of ethnographic research in Cairo in 2014/2015.

Literature on Arab masculinity has been critical of the use of the static notion of 'hegemonic masculinity' (Connell 1995) suggesting instead approaches that include potential for transformation, diversity and historic specificity (Naguib 2015; Inhorn 2012; Aghacy 2009).

Taking in focus changing work and marriage patterns among Syrian men currently living in Cairo reveals on the one hand how refugeeness impacts on men's life, on the other hand, it shows what is perceived as an ideal life trajectory for a Syrian man. Traditional representations of 'ideal' masculinity are in conflict with the lived reality of Syrian men in Egypt and hence Syrian men had to negotiate and make sense of this divergence.

Moreover, this paper will focus on the encounter of Syrian and Egyptian men. The process of creating boundaries between the Syrian 'us' and the Egyptian 'Other' seems to be based on a comparison between men's performances. The 'Other' is measured in relation to how successfully he performs as a man: whether he can provide for his wife and whether he is hardworking and career oriented.

This paper will argue that it is crucial to take into account the dynamic and sometimes contradictory character of masculinity in order to grasp the ongoing changes in the Middle East from a gendered perspective.

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