For Better, for Worse: The Marriage Crisis That Made Modern Egypt

For Better, for Worse: The Marriage Crisis That Made Modern Egypt

For Better, for Worse: The Marriage Crisis That Made Modern Egypt

For Better, for Worse: The Marriage Crisis That Made Modern Egypt

Synopsis

For many Egyptians in the early twentieth century, the biggest national problem was not British domination or the Great Depression but a "marriage crisis" heralded in the press as a devastating rise in the number of middle-class men refraining from marriage. Voicing anxieties over a presumed increase in bachelorhood, Egyptians also used the failings of Egyptian marriage to criticize British rule, unemployment, the disintegration of female seclusion, the influx of women into schools, middle-class materialism, and Islamic laws they deemed incompatible with modernity.

For Better, For Worse explores how marriage became the lens through which Egyptians critiqued larger socioeconomic and political concerns. Delving into the vastly different portrayals and practices of marriage in both the press and the Islamic court records, this innovative look at how Egyptians understood marital and civil rights and duties during the early twentieth century offers fresh insights into ongoing debates about nationalism, colonialism, gender, and the family.

Excerpt

Social crises are just as important and dangerous as their
political or economic counterparts, if not more so, because their
repercussions can destroy the entire nation and foreshadow its
annihilation. Is there anything more indicative of this than the
marriage crisis that threatens the Egyptian nation at its core, erodes
its backbone, and forewarns of its ruin? the government and people
must urgently unite to solve this crisis.

William Cayyid

In this 1929 letter to the editor, the lawyer William Gayyid underscored the alarming anxieties that the Egyptian middle class shared about the marriage crisis and the fate of their fledgling nation. Writers and readers deployed the term marriage crisis in the press to refer to a supposed rise in the number of middle-class men who were choosing bachelorhood over marriage in early twentieth-century urban Egypt. For many like Gayyid, the biggest problem facing Egypt was not British domination or the Great Depression but the marriage crisis, which demanded nothing short of government intervention because it signified the potential demise of the nation. When Egyptians were discussing this crisis in the press, they were not simply voicing their concerns about . . .

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