Back to Writing but Not the Same River 

Shereen Abounaga (Cairo University)

In the last decade of the twentieth century and the first decade of the twenty first century women’s presence was conspicuous through the arts; terms like subjectivity formation and self-expression were not uncommon. With the advent of the sweeping protests in the MENA region, women could really carve a distinguished space in the public sphere of which the result was a plethora of new forms of art. Graffiti, street theatre, music bands, caricature, rapping, are a few examples. The literature of/on the region over researched these forms and again terms like ‘female agency’ and ‘women resistance’ became normalized. Yet, towards 2014, the public sphere was completely shut down (not co-opted) and any form of self-expression through the arts (or any other means) amounted to being a felony.

After a few years of limbo, imbalance, and self-draining, women resorted back to writing as it turned out that it is the only permissible- and perhaps forgotten- space now. While the genre of writing (fiction and no-fiction) is not new to women, it is the form and content of these writings that are novel. This article examines the new writings that alter the classical discourse of/about women in terms of self-perception, target readers, and most important the corollary of the personal and political. Mona Abaza’s Cairo Collages (2020), Donia Kamal Tartibat Ashwaaya (Random Arrangements) (2019), and Yara Sallam’s Even the Finest of Warriors (2019) are some examples to be examined.