Ambivalences of piety: Gendered identities of Egyptian women in performance | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 1, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 2043-1015
  • E-ISSN: 2043-1023


Gender representations and the position of women in Islam are issues of ongoing debates in both the Muslim world and the West. This article discusses the manifestation of religiosity among Egyptian female artists who publically occupy a religious space to identify themselves and/or their artistic expressions, and examines closely the representation of a Muslim femininity onstage in a reading of Egyptian playwright Alfred Farag's The Last Walk (1999). This article looks at the dominant discourses of gender in the context of contemporary Egypt and the influence of these discourses on artistic expression of femininity onstage. The open-ended, scriptural text has given enough room for creative discursive strategies to take shape. To represent in performance or not has generally been a debatable question that polarized Muslim communities of old and new. This has particularly been pertinent to women's performance given the proscriptions on a woman's bodily display inherent in the religious text. The article explores a performance of gender inequality in the Islamic context of Egyptian society. Farag's one-woman-show play problematizes notions of agency, responsibility and victimhood. The diversity of ambivalent attitudes towards women performers influenced by the Egyptians' religious outlook is explored through the examination of the case of the 'repentant' Egyptian female artists. Repentant artists include actors, vocalists and belly dancers, who, due to their varying modes of performance, debate the decision of their repentance or retirement differently. The various brands of religiosity that these female artists demonstrate explicate new forms of non-western feminist agencies that are otherwise unexplored or reductively deemed marginal, precisely because they are born within an Islamic culture.


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  • Article Type: Article
Keyword(s): Egyptian women; female artists; gender; identity; performance; piety; religiosity
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