Current Institutional Affiliation
Associate Professor, History, American University in Cairo

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2004
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, New York University (NYU)
The Making and Marrying of Modern Egyptians: Marriage, Law, and Nationalism in Colonial Egypt, 1898-1956

This project explores the ways in which Egyptian men and women conceptualized the nation through marriage and understood their marital and national rights and duties between 1898 and 1956. I will examine a sample of marriage and divorce cases filed in Cairo's Islamic courts in order to situate them within the widespread press debates over the alleged "marriage crisis." Nationalist reporters and reformers used this term to refer either to 'backward' Islamic marital laws, the purported rise in mixed marriage between Egyptian men and European women, or the supposedly soaring numbers of urban middle-class bachelors. When Egyptian elites were discussing the "marriage crisis" in the press, they were not referring only to their concerns over marital legislation, mixed marriage, or bachelorhood during the British occupation. They also were employing marriage as a metaphor to critique larger socio-economic and political turmoil, and to envision a postcolonial nation free of social ills. I seek to explain why Egyptians paradoxically portrayed marriage as both an impediment and a facilitator to national modernity and political independence. By combining an analysis of elite, nationalist constructions of marriage in the press with empirical research of actual elite and non-elite marital practices in the courts, this project will demonstrate how marriage, law, and nationalism were intertwined, portrayed, and practiced in a colonial context. It also will contribute to our historical understanding of the "marriage crisis," which pervades Egyptian popular discourse to this day.