Sunday, September 22, 2013

Farha Ghannam's "Live and Die Like a Man"

Farha Ghannam is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Swarthmore College and author of Remaking the Modern: Space, Relocation, and the Politics of Identity in a Global Cairo.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book,  Live and Die Like a Man: Gender Dynamics in Urban Egypt, and reported the following:
From page 99:
After marriage, relatives, neighbors, and friends keep a close eye on the relationship between the husband and wife and deploy several strategies such as joking and teasing, direct criticism, verbal instructions, and, in few cases, physical discipline, to ensure that the hierarchy between the two sides is maintained. They closely monitor the interaction between the couple and pay special attention to bodily gestures (such as the way she looks at him) and language exchanges (such as the wording and intonations of her reactions) to confirm that she shows deference and obedience.
This book shifts the attention to men, who are often taken for granted in the study of gender in the Middle Easy. It explores the changing norms, the multiple contexts, diverse agents, and competing discourses that inform men’s daily life and their standing as gendered subjects. In particular, it accounts for key structures, especially gender and class, which intersect in deep ways to shape men’s conduct and identifications in a low-income neighborhood in northern Cairo, Egypt. Through tracing trajectories of several men of different age groups, the book sheds light on the importance of work and economic productivity, engagement in community life, good grooming, management of urban life, proper use of violence, getting married, and becoming a father in the construction of a masculine identification. My ethnography illustrates that while a masculine identification is embodied by individual actors, masculinity is a collective project that is negotiated through interactions between the private and the public, men and women, young and old, parents and children, and neighbors and strangers.

Page 99 does indeed capture central points the book is making. In contrast to other studies, which tend to assume that masculinity is constructed by men for men and is largely articulated in public life, my analysis pays special attention to the multiple roles women play in the making of men. It shows that women are not merely an oppositional mirror against which masculine identifications are projected and redefined. Rather, mothers, sisters, and wives actively work to help their male relatives materialize the notion of the “real man” and contribute in important ways to their standing both in private and public. Through tracing changing relationships between men and women and closely looking at the husband-wife relationship, which is carefully monitored by other family members, I show that women’s instructions, criticisms, judgments, and moral and financial support are important part of the technologies that cultivate a masculine identity that is legitimized and recognized by others. It is thus through the interaction between men and women, not their separation or simple opposition, that gendered identifications are elaborated and reproduced.
Learn more about Live and Die Like a Man at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue