Vol.15, No.1 | [Article] Women’s Third Prison: Adaptation and the Gendered Image-Nation of Egyptian Women (in) Cinema (Riham Abdel Maksoud Debian)



This paper deals with the scopic enactment and negotiation of the scalar dynamics of gendered nationalism and their implication for women’s third prison in the Egyptian post-independent setting. Women’s Third prison is a critical  category  referencing  Middle  Eastern  women’s  intersectional positioning  between  kinship  feudally-inflected  patriarchy  and  political familism  with  the  latter  constituting  the  panacea  and  pinnacle  for  the imagination  and  gender  imaging  of  women  placed  in  the  national body-politics.  The  paper  tackles  the  questions  of  the  gender  politics  of nationalism and their scopic drive underpinning the cinematic adaptation of the  gender  story  of  the  nation  from  text  to  screen  along  two  historical contexts—the period of developmental and  global  modernity.  Adopting a multicultural  feminist  approach,  the  paper  examines  three  cinematic adaptations of two novels and a play. These are Idris’ AlʿAyb (Disgrace 1962), al-Zayat’s Al-Bab al-Maftouh (Open Door 1960) and al-Asaal’s Segn al-Nisa (Women’s Prison 1882). The paper approaches the adaptations - Idris and Khalifa’s AlʿAyb (Disgrace 1967), Youssef Issa and Latifa al-Zayat’s al-Bab al-Maftouh  (Open  Door  1963),  Abu  Zikri  and  Naoum’s  Segn  al-Nisa (Women’s  Prison  2014)  -  through  both  McClintock’s  framework  on  the gender politics of nationalism (1997), Hucheon’s notion of “the context of creation … and reception” (Hutcheon 2006, 15) and Mulvey’s take on the visual pleasure of narrative cinema. The paper capitalizes on the medially induced turn in Translation Studies (Littau 2011) with its attention to context and  media  as  parameters  and  venues  for  constructing  the  self-image  of national  cultural  identity.  The  paper  argues  for  the  following:  first,  the significance  of  the  context  of  creation  and  reception  as  a  regulating  and shaping parameter for the politics of adaption - conceived in repertoire with the narrative reservoir and scopic schemes shaping the horizon of expectation of  the  target  audience;  second,  the  technologies  of  violence  of  gendered nationalism  and  its  scopic  enactment  of  the  scalar  dynamics  of  social hierarchy through the visual narrativization of the gender story of Western styled  nation-state.  Third,  the  visual  narrativization  of  national  cinematic adaptation administers a transmedia story-telling within the scopic regime of modernity  and  global  modernity.  Fourth,  Western  styled  nationalism negotiated  the  inherent  paradox  of  modern  nation-state  through  the social-contractual  relation  of  women  to  national  body  politics  -  visually narrativized through the Egyptian styled pleasure of national cinema fetishistic scopophilia. Ultimately, the paper argues for the sustainable persistence of women's third prison, whose metamorphosing visual narrativization tolls the knell for the nation-state's hyphen putting the current social order in jeopardy with no redemption for a viable alternative.