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    Mardi 13 février 2018
    Tuesday 13 February 2018

    No Home, Many Houses: Women, Mobility and Crime in 1920 Alexandria

    Elena Chiti University of Oslo
    Discussant: Efi Avdela

    Salle des conférences de l’EFA / Αίθουσα διαλέξεων της EFA
    Οrganisé par la British School at Athens (BSA) et l’École française d’Athènes (EFA), en collaboration avec le British Institute at Ankara (BIAA), et financé par le réseau Balkan Futures et l’EFA

    Programme 2018

    In the immediate aftermath of the Great War, Egypt was shaken by massive anti-colonial protests following the arrest of Saad Zaghloul and other members of Wafd, who asked for Egyptian independence from British occupation. Within the large popular participation, women took also the streets to join the protests. Their visibility in the public space, in a time of political turmoil, was accompanied by reflections on their role at home and in the society. Explicitly discussed by the intellectual elite, from feminists to nationalists, this debate was implicitly present in the ordinary press and its analysis can be enriched by studying crime accounts.
    One of those, from Alexandria, attracted broad national attention. It involved a gang composed of men and women, arrested in November 1920 and charged with 17 murders. Yet, the women of the gang were depicted as its actual chiefs and unceremoniously called by their first names: Raya and Sakina. They soon became, as Shaun Lopez observed, “the anti-icons” of the new Egypt. Immigrants from Upper Egypt, former prostitutes and ultimately madams, Raya and Sakina were condemned in the press for their lack of stability, their suspicious mobility within the city and the uninhabitable conditions of their houses. This paper aims at reconstructing and discussing the very process which led to the creation of this negative feminine myth, in which mobility, and its stigmatisation, played a significant role.



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