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Sex and the Citadel: Intimate Life in a Changing Arab World [Anglais] [Broché]

Shereen El Feki
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Descriptions du produit

Extrait

Introduction
“What is it?”
 
Six pairs of dark eyes stared at me—or rather, at the small purple rod in my hand.
 
“It’s a vibrator,” I answered, in English, racking my brain for the right Arabic word. “A thing that makes fast movements” came to mind, but as that could equally apply to a hand mixer, I decided to stick with my mother tongue to minimize what I could sense was rising confusion in the room.
 
One of the women, curled up on a divan beside me, began to unpin her hijab, a cascade of black hair falling down her back as she carefully put her headscarf to one side. “What does it do?” she asked.
 
“Well, it vibrates,” I added, taking a sip of mint tea and biting into a piece of syrupy baklava to buy myself some time before the inevitable rejoinder.
 
“But why?”
 
How I came to be demonstrating sex toys to a coffee morning of Cairo housewives is a long story. I have spent the past five years traveling across the Arab region asking people about sex: what they do, what they don’t, what they think and why. Depending on your perspective, this might sound like a dream job or a highly dubious occupation. For me, it is something else altogether: sex is the lens through which I investigate the past and present of a part of the world about which so much is written and still so little is understood.
 
Now, I grant you, sex might seem an odd choice, given the spectacle of popular revolt playing out across the Arab world since the beginning of this decade, which has taken with it some of the region’s most entrenched regimes—in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Yemen for starters—and is shaking up the rest. Some observers, however, have gone so far as to argue that it was youthful sexual energy that fueled the protests in the first place. I’m not so sure. While I’ve often heard Egyptians say their fellow countrymen spend 99.9 percent of their time thinking about sex, in the heady days of early 2011, making love appeared, for once, to be the last thing on people’s minds.
 
Yet I don’t believe it was entirely out of sight. Sexual attitudes and behaviors are intimately bound up in religion, tradition, culture, politics, and economics. They are part and parcel of sexuality—that is, the act and all that goes with it, including gender roles and identity, sexual orientation, pleasure, intimacy, eroticism, and reproduction. As such, sexuality is a mirror of the conditions that led to these uprisings, and it will be a measure of the progress of hard-won reforms in the years to come. In his reflections on the history of the West, the French philosopher Michel Foucault described sexuality as “an especially dense transfer point for relations of power: between men and women, young people and old people, parents and offspring, teachers and students, priests and laity, an administration and a population.” The same is true in the Arab world: if you really want to know a people, start by looking inside their bedrooms.
 
Had it not been for the events of September 11, 2001, I might never have opened that door. I was working at The Economist when the world turned. Having trained as an immunologist before becoming a journalist, I was on the health and science beat, far removed from the great political debates of the day. From these sidelines, I had a chance to sit back and watch my colleagues grapple with the complexities of the Arab region. I saw their confidence in Anglo-American might and exuberance in the early afterglow of the war in Iraq gradually turn to doubt, then bewilderment. Why weren’t Iraqis rushing to embrace this new world order? Why did they rarely follow the playbook written in Washington and London? Why did they behave in ways so contrary to Western expectations? In short, what makes them tick?
 
For me, these are not questions of geopolitics or anthropology; this is a matter of personal identity. The Arab world is in my blood: my father is Egyptian, and through him my family roots stretch from the concrete of Cairo to cotton fields deep in the Nile Delta. My mother comes from a distant green valley—a former mining village in South Wales. This makes me half Egyptian, though most people in the Arab region shake their heads when I tell them this. To them there is no “half” about it; because my father is wholly Egyptian, so am I. And because he is Muslim, I too was born Muslim. My mother’s family is Christian: her father was a Baptist lay preacher, and her brother, in a leap of Anglican upward mobility, became a vicar in the Church of Wales. But my mother converted to Islam on marrying my father. She was not obliged to; Muslim men are free to marry ahl al-kitab, or people of the Book—among them, Jews and Christians. For my mother, becoming Muslim was a matter of conviction, not coercion.
 
I was born in England and raised in Canada long before “Muslims in the West” was a talking point. There were a few of us at school (I grew up in a university town near Toronto), but I never thought much of it. Then again, I was brought up with an icing of Islam on an otherwise Western lifestyle: my only observances were steering clear of pork and alcohol and learning al-Fatiha—the opening chapter of the Qur’an—which my parents had me recite before our very British Sunday lunches. As the sole Muslims on the block, we were always the first to put up Christmas lights, and Easter never passed without a clutch of chocolate eggs.
 
As for Egypt, each year we would visit my grandmother Nuna Aziza and a vast circle of aunts, uncles, and cousins. We were the outliers: my mother was the only Western woman (khawagayya, in Egyptian Arabic) to have married into the family, and during my childhood, we were the only members living outside of Egypt. So between my father’s prestige as the eldest son and my own exotic pedigree, I basked in the spotlight. My nuna’s apartment was a shrine to our tiny branch of the family in exile; amid the plastic plants and the frolicking shepherds and coy maidens in petit point, our photos were crammed onto coffee tables and consoles, whose delicate gilded legs seemed unequal to the weight of so much grandmotherly affection. Growing up, I came to love Egypt and respect Islam, but I never thought to go beyond the surface.
 
Back in Canada, many of my father’s Egyptian friends questioned his decision not to raise his only child more strictly in the faith. I was not taught salat, the Muslim ritual of prayer, nor did I study Arabic. It was not for want of conviction on my father’s part. He is a devout Muslim who prays five times a day and recites the Qur’an every morning, from memory; he’s a hajji, having gone on pilgrimage to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina; he scrupulously observes the fast during Ramadan and never fails to pay zakat, or alms for the poor. But my father saw his friends push Islam and their own Arab upbringing on their children—particularly their daughters—like a vaccine against the perceived ills of the West. More often than not, however, what these parents saw as a danger, their children embraced as an opportunity, many turning away from a religious and cultural heritage that seemed to them like too much strong medicine. My parents, on the other hand, gave me the freedom to come to my religion and my roots on my own terms and in my own time.
 
That moment came after September 11. Like so many others who straddle East and West, I was impelled to take a closer look at my origins. That I chose sex as my lens is unusual—but understandable, given my background. Part of my job at The Economist was writing about HIV, and that included the grim task of reporting on the state of the global epidemic. Each year, UNAIDS, the United Nations agency in charge of tracking the disease, issues updates full of daunting statistics. What always grabbed my attention were not the huge numbers of those living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe, and Asia but the tiny ones in the Arab region, where the prevalence of infection was only a fraction of what it was elsewhere. How, in an era of mass migration and instant access, could one part of the world stay seemingly immune to HIV? Was it possible that people in the Arab region were simply not engaging in risky behavior—that there was no needle sharing or contaminated blood supplies or unsafe sex?
 
As I started to ask questions, I began to tumble into the gap between public appearance, as reflected in official statistics, and private reality. While many people were busy reassuring me that HIV was not, and could never be, the problem in the Arab world that it was elsewhere, I was meeting whole families who were infected and was hearing the increasingly urgent pleas of those working quietly to stop the epidemic in its tracks. The more I looked, the more I realized that the main wedge between appearance and reality was sex: a collective unwillingness to face up to any behavior that fell short of a marital ideal, a resistance buttressed by religious interpretation and social convention.
 
In broad strokes, this sexual climate looks a lot like the West on the brink of the sexual revolution. And many of the same underlying forces that drove change in Europe and America are present in the modern Arab world, if only in embryo: struggles toward democracy and personal rights; the rapid growth of cities and a growing strain on family structures, loosening community controls on private behavior; a huge population of young people whose influences and attitudes diverge from those of their parents; the changing role of women; the transformation of sex into a consumer good through economic expansion and liberalization. Add to that greater exposure to the sexual mores of other parts of the world brought about through media and migration. All... --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Relié .

Revue de presse

"Important, brave and necessary" (Naomi Wolf)

"Compelling, revelatory... No one can be sure where the Arab awakening will lead now -- towards fiercer sexual controls or a slight relaxing of them. The one thing El Feki is sure of is that there will be no seismic shifts. This will be evolution, not revolution" (Jenni Russell Sunday Times (Culture))

"Fascinating" (Daisy Goodwin Mail on Sunday)

"Frequently eye-popping. The stories emphasise just how bewildering the issue of sex has become across the Middle East" (Nicholas Blincoe Daily Telegraph)

"A fascinating survey of sex that is rich in detail" (The Economist)

"Highly researched and refreshingly amusing... an honest appraisal of a culture and religion in turmoil" (Malu Halasa Times Literary Supplement)

"In talking to ordinary people as well as sex therapists and sociologists, El Feki has been able to produce an original portrait of the region's youth that sheds light on the condition of women, failing education and health systems, and the uses and abuses of religion to reinforce the status quo" (Rhoula Khalaf Financial Times)

"Serious and ground-breaking study of what goes on in bedrooms away from the public turmoil taking place in Egypt. It also reappraises the sexual history of the Arab world" (GQ)

"Dr El Feki's position as a western-educated female Muslim, both insider and outsider... gives the book an invaluable perspective and a differnet kind of authority" (Faramerz Dabhoiwala Observer)

"This is a principled book, robustly educative and illuminating without consenting to the kind of vacant voyeurism that the intimate life veiled by Islam can provoke in unthinking outsiders" (Shahidha Bari Times Higher Education Supplement)

"In her sweeping, finely researched and fascinating book Shereen El Feki spends five years travelling the Arab world asking intimate questions of the most private people on Earth. She speaks to disaffected wives, single mothers, sex workers, agony aunts, Koranic scholars, infertility specialists. Her findings are endlessly intriguing.... Where this book excels is in locating the territory in which traditional morality collides with the encroaching modern world" (Janice Turner The Times)

"In her sweeping, finely researched and fascinating book Shereen El Feki spends five years travelling the Arab world asking intimate questions of the most private people on Earth... Her findings are endlessly intriguing" (Janice Turner The Times)

Détails sur le produit

  • Broché: 368 pages
  • Editeur : Chatto & Windus (7 mars 2013)
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ISBN-10: 0701183160
  • ISBN-13: 978-0701183165
  • Dimensions du produit: 22,8 x 15,2 x 2,8 cm
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 5.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (1 commentaire client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: 103.317 en Livres anglais et étrangers (Voir les 100 premiers en Livres anglais et étrangers)
  • Table des matières complète
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Couverture | Copyright | Table des matières | Extrait | Index | Quatrième de couverture
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5.0 étoiles sur 5 A Requirement 27 juillet 2014
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
This book is a requirement for anyone in the West that wants to understand the Arab world better. She brings insights to the table that clearly show you can't force things from one culture onto another. Each culture has to come to its own maturity on a subject. Also she highlights historical points that prove that the Arab fundamentalism is a modern phenomenon and not inherent.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 étoiles sur 5  32 commentaires
22 internautes sur 26 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Eloquent Writing About A Fascinating Topic 21 mars 2013
Par David Adams - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
I had the pleasure of hearing Shereen El Feki interviewed on Fresh Air soon after the release of this book and was so impressed by her conversation with Terry Gross that I downloaded a copy and dived into it that same evening.

If the events of this past decade have instilled in you a thirst to learn more about other people and cultures, you would do well to consider this book a resource.
12 internautes sur 14 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Sex Roles in Egypt 7 avril 2013
Par Gayle Kimball - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
El Feki has a unique perspective with access to frank discussions with her father's relatives and the ability to compare with Western mores based on being raised in Canada with a Welsh mother. She ties attitudes towards gender roles to the ability to create a democratic society after the overthrow of Mubarak. She found that for many in the Arab world, Western values include homosexuality, sex before marriage, mixing of the sexes, women's liberation and pornography. They're believed to undermine Islam and traditional Arab values, observed Shereen El Feki. She spent two years interviewing Arabs about sex for her book Sex and the Citadel. The irony, she adds, is that discussion of sexual pleasure and "so much of what they brand as dangerous foreign ideas were features of the Arab-Islamic world long before they were embraced by Western liberalism." She notes the fear of Western ideas was coupled with a feeling of inferiority that followed Napoleon's invasion of Egypt in 1798 and the British occupation from 1882 to 1952. The founder of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1920s, Hassan al-Banna taught that part of the reason for loss of political power was Egyptian's sexual immorality and that the solution was to follow Shaira law. (Surveys indicate about a third of Arab young men are sexually active before marriage, compared to about 20% of young women).
Most Egyptian young women now cover their hair, while their mothers and grandmothers didn't and could wear short skirts without being harassed. In the 1960s and `70s sex was an accepted aspect of films until the rise of Islamic conservatism and official censorship. A return to Islamic fundamentalism was a form of protest against dictatorship, the most extreme form taught by the Salafi movement. Soon after Mubarak was dethroned, Salafi squads of morality police--similar to those in Saudi Arabia--correcting hand-holding couples, etc.
She found a general lack of sex education by either family or schools, leading to many complaints about sexual satisfaction, supported by larger surveys of Egyptians. Widespread female genital mutilation doesn't help. A Population Council survey of more than 15,0000 young people under age 30 found that 82% of female respondents are circumcised, with a declining rate for younger girls, although most respondents (64%) think it's a necessary custom. It's considered necessary to cool women's sexual desire so she won't want sex before marriage or be too demanding of her husband. Most young people don't discuss puberty and sex with their parents.
El Feki suggests that authoritarian government requires the same kind of patriarchal family life where the father rules and sex before marriage is controlled and prohibited. Although the nation overthrew its father figure, "the nation's young people may find that it's more difficulty to move away from home than it was to get Mubarak out of office." More than three-quarters of both young men and women believe that a woman must obey her husband's orders and two-thirds agreed that wife battery is justified in some situations. When asked about what they were looking for in a spouse, number one was "polite," meaning well brought up, followed by being religious. Education is also valued for both sexes. Expressions of love are not common between spouses, despite being sung about in popular songs and music videos. The main focus on the first year of marriage is producing a child. El Feki reports that media---women's magazines, TV talk shows, newspapers and the Internet--frequently talk about "the trouble with marriage. It's hard to see how democracy can flourish in a society if its constitutional and cultural cornerstone in the family is so undemocratic."
9 internautes sur 10 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A powerful voice for the Muslim feminist 10 avril 2013
Par Robert E. Cook - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
I write thrillers and have a protagonist in Morocco and a Bedouin woman in Spain; I'd like the Bedouin to be a voice of Muslim feminism. Sex and the Citadel is the third book I've read, and the most recently published, building support for the voice I seek; it's the most approachable, and great fun to read. Sex and the Citadel is also a powerful resource for the young and curious woman in the Middle East.

Shareen El Feki, a half Welsh, half Egyptian woman, does a marvelous job of reaching analytically into the sexual mores of the Arab Muslim world. She spent two years, asking and listening, with Arab women from Egypt and across the Middle East . On this mental journey, through the lens of a thoroughly modern Muslim woman, El Feki leads the reader on a fascinating examination of the attitudes of Muslim women about sexuality, and more.

El Feki can really write. Time spent as a journalist for the Economist seems to have been well spent; the story flows cleanly and maintains the reader's interest. She's smart; an early doctorate in molecular immunology from Cambridge attests to that.

The modern phenomenon of Internet Cloud-connected `everything' allows fascinating discussions of the impact of new knowledge flowing into the Muslim home, beyond the censoring control of the governments. The reader is exposed to several modern web-oriented paths used to educate the budding Muslim feminist. One is Muntada Jensaneya, the Arab Forum for Sexuality, Education and Health. There are others discussed.

Some parts of the book catch one by surprise by evoking a sudden guffaw. El Feki's story of Muslim women searching the internet for information on 'sexual aids' is special, as efforts to translate descriptive material labor. There is little pushing of the Western model of acceptable treatment of women, but rather a considered discussion of why the situation with regard to sexuality is different in the Arab world and how the women there deal with it. Wisdom and humor are delivered through examples, vignettes and pithy quotes from her paternal grandmother.

All in all, the voice of the modern Muslim feminist has been given a new, strong voice. Well done.

Robert Cook, author of Patriot and Assassin[...]
7 internautes sur 8 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 accessible look at an interesting topic 12 avril 2013
Par K. Sue - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
Shereen Feki, the daughter of an Egyptian man and a Welsh mother, looks at the connection between the expression of sexuality and the pursuit of freedom in general. She argues that Muslims were not always so sexually suppressed as they are today, but that the tyranny of dictatorship has used sexual repression within the patriarchal Middle Eastern societies as the most powerful tool of general suppression in their regimes. With all the changes that Middle Eastern societies have been going through in the Arab Spring uprisings, Feki wanted to see what changes, if any, are taking place in regards to sexuality. She looks at women's sexual rights, the importance of virginity, sex workers, homosexuality and transgender. She concentrates mostly on Egypt, but looks at some issues in Morocco, Lebanon and Tunisia as well.

Feki was born and raised in Canada, but spent summers with her relatives in Egypt. In a way, this book is an attempt to understand her roots and get to know her relatives better. These parts, where she has real discussions with friends and relatives are most interesting and revealing. She also talks to famous feminists, activists, authors and film makers, and while these people often provide the most shocking information, the tone is different than talking to family. I found it a little jarring. On the other hand, I was inspired and genuinely happy to know about these stereotype busting women. My personal reading list has a few more titles added to it.

This book is meant to be read by the general public and thus does not employ academic language. I would call it "kicky". The language is easily accessible and she occasionally uses crude words and makes jokes. However, the content of the book is scholarly. At times I felt there was an attempt being made to make the book more appealing to the reader by quoting extended passages from explicit texts that bordered on sensationalizing. Feki's point is to show how uninhibited Arabs and Muslims used to be, but one or two references would have been enough. If you are looking for a more scholarly take on the same material, albeit describing Egypt in the 70s, read Nawal Sadaawi's "The Faces of Eve". The last chapter of the book contains suggestions of plans of action that Feki, as an employee of the World Health Organization, would like to pursue. It reads like a position paper presented to such an organization. It's not that there's anything wrong with that, but it was such a shift from the tones previously used.

I do think the topic is a worthy one for discussion and I would like to see more books on this subject looking at the situation in Saudi Arabia or the Gulf states or the Arabs living in Israel. I would recommend the book for anyone who is interested and hasn't read anything on the subject.
4 internautes sur 4 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Makes you realize just how naive we are in the US. 13 avril 2013
Par JJ - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
Insightful look at sex and politics. Thankful to be a woman living in the Western world. We must learn more to understand other cultures.
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