AMEWS Association for Middle East Women's Studies

Hanan Hammad, Industrial Sexualities: Gender, Urbanization, and Social Transformation in Egypt (University of Texas Press 2016)

The first prize winner of AMEWS’s 2017 book award is Industrial Sexualities by Hanan Hammad. In ways not yet tackled in the filed, the book elucidates the links between industrialization, changing sexualities, and gender norms while consistently placing sex and gender center-stage. A rich and careful analysis of working class experiences, it brings labor history into conversation with questions of sexuality, gender, and masculinity. Hammad argues that class and gender are shaped through structural, historical forces, including power struggles and surveillance of lower class sexuality. She conducts a thorough content analysis of archives from the Ghazl al Mahalla company, the town, petitions, court records, oral histories and published memoires.

Hammad encapsulates how people living in increasingly urbanized spaces transform their lives in fluid rather than regulated, top-down, linear ways. Industrial Sexualities shows that the communities Hammad studied were neither passively inculcated by state power nor were they directly challenging its “bourgeoisifying” efforts. She builds on feminist and subaltern studies in her detailed analysis discussing intersectionality, debunking heteronormative binaries, explaining how sexuality becomes more public due to shared proximity in neighborhoods. She also examines how sexuality is renegotiated as an instrument of power, whether by regulatory state power eager to control the wild and rampant lower classes or between upwardly mobile neighbors keen on assuming status and prestige. This book will be of great value to those scholars interpreting gender in the present through its rediscovery of the intersections of class and gender during Egypt’s urbanization period. It nuances the historical lens through which we view modern gender relations in a post-industrial context.