Women of the Midan

Women of the Midan

The Untold Stories of Egypt's Revolutionaries
Sherine Hafez
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 04/03/2019
Format: Hardback 15 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-04060-2
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In Women of the Midan, Sherine Hafez demonstrates how women were a central part of revolutionary process of the Arab Spring. Women not only protested in the streets of Cairo, they demanded democracy, social justice, and renegotiation of a variety of sociocultural structures that repressed and disciplined them. Women's resistance to state control, Islamism, neoliberal market changes, the military establishment, and patriarchal systems forged new paths of dissent and transformation. Through firsthand accounts of women who participated in the revolution, Hafez illustrates how the gendered body signifies collective action and the revolutionary narrative. Using the concept of rememory, Hafez shows how the body is inseparably linked to the trauma of the revolutionary struggle. While delving into the complex weave of public space, government control, masculinity, and religious and cultural norms, Hafez sheds light on women's relationship to the state in the Arab world today and how the state, in turn, shapes individuals and marks gendered bodies.

Author Bio

Sherine Hafez is Associate Professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of California, Riverside. She is author of An Islam of Her Own: Reconsidering Religion and Secularism in Women's Islamic Movements and editor (with Susan Slyomovics) of Anthropology of the Middle East and North Africa: Into the New Millennium.



Women of the Midan is a brilliant exploration of the experience of women in the Egyptian revolution. Sherine Hafez's close observations of the complex engagements of a diverse pool of mobilized women opens up new understandings of Egypt's 2011 uprising and the political forms that emerged in its wake. Hafez makes a compelling case both for the urgent necessity of gendered readings of Egyptian politics and for rethinking the meaning of political mobilization more broadly.


 (Marc Lynch, Professor of Political Science, The George Washington University, and author of The Arab Uprising: The Unfinished Revolutions of the New Middle East)


Sherine Hafez draws on oral narratives and the history of the women's movement in Egypt to produce this extremely valuable intervention in narrating the memory of the 2011 Egyptian revolution from a gendered point of view. Hafez demonstrates how women's bodies have always been sites of contestation, manipulation, and dissent. This book is an outstanding combination of firsthand accounts, rigorous theory, and commitment to women's activism for change and justice.


 (Hoda Elsadda, author of Gender, Nation and the Arabic Novel: Egypt 1892–2008)


Sherine Hafez challenges the often narrow focus on the Midaan and the eighteen days of revolution by takin a much wider and historical approach, showing that women's struggles took place not only within the specific context of revolution, but also within the wider historicity of neoliberalism and global politics. The processes of retelling, recounting, and rememory contribute to the wider struggle of women to redraw boundaries of their bodies as well as gender norms and relations.


 (Nadje Al-Ali, author of What Kind of Liberation?: Women and the Occupation of Iraq)


A much needed account of the Egyptian revolution that places questions of gender and sexuality front and center. Sherine Hafez delivers something unique and refreshing: why and how so many Egyptian women whose lives are drastically different from one another took part in the revolution and what this meant to them.


 (Sherine Hamdy, author of Our Bodies Belong to God)


Drawing on women's narratives of Tahrir Square—Muslim and Christian, rich and poor—Hafez's book offers the richest, most vivid account I know of those historic revolutionary days. Hope, joy, exhilaration, violence, terror, and the longing and struggle for justice—all are there. Vividly evoking their experiences, Hafez's work makes clear as she analyses the historical, political and feminist dimensions of the 'Arab Spring,' that gender is always inevitably present shaping, for all of us, women and men, our most ordinary and most eventful moments—in Egypt as, of course, everywhere.

A riveting read and a classic.


 (Leila Ahmed, Victor S. Thomas Professor of Divinity, Harvard University, and author of A Quiet Revolution: The Veil's Resurgence, from the Middle East to America)


Sherine Hafez's Women of the Midan is a brilliant excavation of gender, the body, corporeality, resistance, revolution, religion, power, and the state. She weaves together momentous historic dynamics of Arab Spring through the embodied messy ordinariness and extraordinariness of the rememories of rich and poor, educated and uneducated, rural and urban, Muslim and Christian women who are Egyptian. A tour de force.


 (Suad Joseph, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies, UC Davis, and editor of Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Culture)

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Table of Contents


Recentering Gender in Revolution: Timeline 2011 to 2015


1. Telling the Stories of Revolutionary Women

2. Gender and Corporeality in Egypt: A History

3. Gender, Class and Revolt in Neoliberal Cairo

4. The Lived Experience of Women's Struggle

5. Bodies That Protest

6. The Specter of Gender Violence

7. Taking Resistance Virtually: Corporeality and Sexual Taboos

Works Cited