Copts, Islamists and Jews: gender, minorities, hybridity (and its limits) in two novellas by Bahaa Abdelmegid

Sarah Irving


Bahaa Abdelmegid's novellas Saint Theresa and Sleeping with Strangers feature a range of intertwined relations: sexual, commercial, as neighbours, and as colleagues between Jews, Christians and Muslims in Egyptian society since 1967. This paper explores the implications of Abdelmegid's portrayal of Egyptian society, in which he celebrates its internal diversity whilst simultaneously warning of the dangers and disruptions of 'too much' hybridity and of over-familiarity with the 'Other'. I argue that Abdelmegid's Egyptian masculine is fragile, brittle, and under threat from a dissolute West and an extremist and inauthentic Islam. Abdelmegid articulates a modern warning to this frail masculinity, as well as to a more stable and worldly-wise feminine, about the dangers of undisciplined relationships with both Western culture and religious fundamentalism, both of which stray away from a real Egypt he constructs. 

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