Skip to main content

Eventful Transformations: Al-Futuwwa between History and the Everyday

  • Wilson Chacko Jacob (a1)

A special correspondent for the leading Egyptian newspaper al-Ahram wrote from Alexandria on 28 May 1936: “One of the effects of the Al-Bosfur nightclub murder in Cairo is that its circumstances have led to an interest in the problem of ‘al-futuwwat’ [sing., al-futuwwa] and how much power and influence (al-sat˙wa) they have in the capital and in other Egyptian cities.” The murder referred to was that of a popular singer and dancer, Imtithal Fawzi, by a band of assassins led by failed businessman and weight-trainer Fuad al-Shami. I argue here that this murder can be read as an instance of a larger event, which might be inscribed in the following way: a moment that irrevocably branded the public figure of futuwwa with the additional meanings of thug, mobster, and nefarious villain—bal ˙tagi. This is not the conventional way of registering this moment; indeed, the modern transformation of al-futuwwa is rarely considered as a historical event. It is not my aim here to affirm or deny the outcome of this transformation, nor am I suggesting that the normative conception of al-futuwwa as an Islamic ideal of masculinity had never before had any negative connotations. Rather, I posit—and want to interrogate—a changed historical relationship in the constitution of al-futuwwa, in which the nature of history itself was radically transformed and contributed to the formation of a new politics and a new subject of politics. As part of the hegemonic rise of this field of politics and its subject, history typically shows, or simply presumes, that other life-worlds, like that of the futuwwat and their particular form of power, were rendered exceptional and ultimately obsolete. In a larger project from which this article is drawn, I explored the gendered constitution of that new cultural and political hegemony. I labeled the gender norm that emerged at the intersection of colonial modernity and nationalism as effendi (bourgeois) masculinity, which I located in a new constellation of practices and discourses around the desirable, modern body. The present essay is in part an effort to de-center this bourgeois figure and the terms of its narration, which I unwittingly reproduced in the original study by rendering the event of the futuwwa's transformation as a bit part within a larger story of ostensibly greater national and historical import.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Comparative Studies in Society and History
  • ISSN: 0010-4175
  • EISSN: 1475-2999
  • URL: /core/journals/comparative-studies-in-society-and-history
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 21 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 157 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 16th January 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.