A (female) country doctor in Egypt: the life and times of Nawal Al-Saadawi

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This article explores the experience of female doctors in postcolonial Egypt assigned by the government to work in rural communities through the writings of physician and feminist author Nawal El-Saadawi. Although Saadawi reflected extensively on her rural service in her books and essays, its effect on her and other female doctors’ gendered and political identity has hardly received scholarly attention. Informed by the intersectionality framework and relying mainly on Saadawi as a source for writing a social history of Egyptian women, this article sheds light on Egyptian female medical practitioners and the unintended consequences of state feminism. It finds that the linkage with the state’s socialist policies made for a novel and empowering professional experience for many women. Importantly, this novel role involved structural conditions and duties that gave female doctors social and professional autonomy and allowed them to perform according to their subjective understanding. These performances, in turn, held the potential of transforming their concepts of medicine, ideal womanhood, and gendered power relations. Most significantly, rural service empowered female doctors to transgress and resist patriarchal values and practices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)551-570
Number of pages20
JournalBritish Journal of Middle Eastern Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 British Society for Middle Eastern Studies.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • History
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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