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Eunuchs, the Effendiyya, and the Making of Modern Egyptian Masculinity
In the early decades of the twentieth century, castrated masculinity was key to assembling the respectable Egyptian household and securing heterosexual Egyptian effendiyya masculinity. By tracing the Black eunuch’s place in the emerging Egyptian nation, through a family system (Balibar 1990; McClintock 1995) in which the (male) nationalist elite grew up in close proximity to the ungendered and queered Black eunuch, this paper maps out how Egyptian nationalist politics were shaped by slavery, and how the male Egyptian effendiyya constructed their nationalist identity in opposition to the “emasculated” Black eunuch. Further, it argues that the figure of the effendi was under threat by the eunuch who came to embody emasculated, castrated masculinity, performed subjugated labor through their association with the harem, and their Blackness, which had long been associated with slavery in Egypt. In addition, this paper posits that the geopolitical site of southern Egypt (Upper Egypt) and its proximity to “Black Africa” and the slave routes through which enslaved Black African subjects traveled and where eunuch-making camps existed, contributed to the racialization of Egyptian men from rural origins whose dark skin, peasant origins, and proximity to “Black Africa” confined them to a civilizational periphery. In the urban north where effendiyya writers and cartoonists were actively shaping discourses around normative, ideal citizenship and belonging, the dark-skinned peasant remained on the margins. In this racialized colonial geography, this paper demonstrates that this site and those who came to be associated with it, namely the dark-skinned peasant, experienced a civilizational periphery, which effendiyya writers and cartoonists articulated in the burgeoning printed press.
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