The Masculine Subject of Colonialism: The Egyptian Loss of the Sudan

  • Wilson Chacko Jacob


This chapter represents a larger project that attempts to think masculinity and colonialism together as historically diverse and contested terrains while simultaneously being attentive to the possibility of shared epistemologies and modalities in posing the problem of the modern subject.’ I argue that modernity was a global phenomenon intimately linked to colonization, which relied on similar yet different logics of producing and governing subjects. Variations in place, time, and state power critically determined what kinds of subjects were (im)possible outcomes.


Gender Identity Moral Economy Nationalist Movement Political Modernity Islamic Tradition 
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  1. 2.
    Perhaps it is best to speak of masculinity under erasure. The historicity of the concept must be vigilantly attended to while at the same time understanding the need to read masculinity as a quiet ever-present script underlying most modalities of worlding thought and practice. See the cautionary note on following the path of masculinity by Homi Bhabha, “Are You a Man or a Mouse,” in Maurice Berger, Brian Wallis, and Simon Watson, eds., Constructing Masculinity (New York: Routledge, 1995).Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Ibrahim Fawzi Pasha, Kitab al-Sudan bayn yadayy Gordon wa Kitchener [The Sudan of Gordon and Ktchener] (Cairo: Al-Mu’ayyad Press, 1901), 2 volumes.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    For an interesting discussion of the intersections between masculinity, British popular culture, and imperialism in Africa, see Gail Ching-Liang Low, “His Stories?: Narratives and Images of Imperialism,” Space and Place: Theories of Identity and Location, ed. Erica Carter et al. (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1993).Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    Michael Uebel, “Men in Color,” in Race and the Subject of Masculinities, 11. Uebel is in conversation here with Geoffrey Harpham and his elaboration of the “ought” of ethics in Getting It Right: Language, Literature, and Ethics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992).Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    Whether to call it a colonial power is open to debate. On the one hand, it could be argued that Egyptian territorial expansion followed the general logic underwriting the earlier colonial expansion of European states. But it can be argued also that colonialism has a specifically Western epistemic valence and its application to non-Western cases of territorial expansion would be inaccurate. Although generally sympathetic to the latter, I contend that Egypt’s expansion further into the Sudan in the last quarter of the nineteenth century was in fact informed by this specifically Western episteme. Eve Powell makes a similar argument in “Egyptians in Blackface: Nationalism and the Representation of the Sudan in Egypt, 1919,” Harvard Middle Eastern and Islamic Review 2 (1995), 2: 27–45; and “From Odyssey to Empire: Mapping Sudan through Egyptian Literature in the mid-19th Century,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 31 (1990): 401–427.Google Scholar
  6. 9.
    Khaled Fahmy, All the Pasha’s Men: Mehmed Ali, His Army and the Making of Modern Egypt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).Google Scholar
  7. 14.
    On the surface, Ibrahim Fawzi’s text appears to be a largely secular account of the Sudan. Reading his thinking of issues like just rule, however, in relation to what Gordon represents and in relation to the modern reformist context he occupies results in a productive tension between the Islamic tradition which formed much of his epistemological background and the ostensibly secular liberal tradition with which he was forced to contend. Furthermore, he was writing at a time when the relatively influential discourses of Pan-Islamism and Ottomanism supported by the Ottoman Sultan—who also held the title of Caliph of Islam—vied for the loyalry of Muslim subjects within and beyond the domain of the Ottoman Empire. I owe much of this analysis of competing traditions to Samira Haj, who pushed me to think in this direction. See her forthcoming work, Reconfiguring Tradition: Islamic Reform, Rationality, and Modernity. Also, for an elaboration of incommensurable traditions, see Alasdair Maclntyre, After Virtue (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1993), second edition.Google Scholar
  8. 22.
    Partha Chatterjee notes the same combination of signs—women and gold—to signify the weakness of men in the emergent Indian nationalist discourse. See The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993), 62–68.Google Scholar
  9. 24.
    Both mukhannath and liwat are difficult words to translate. The former could be rendered as homosexual, bisexual, transvestite, transsexual, hermaphrodite, or some combination of these depending on the specific context. Liwat is derived from the Biblical story of Lot and does most often seem to denote sodomy without necessarily connoting a gay identity. For the complicated task of defining and translating Arabic terms dealing with male sexuality, see Frédéric Lagrange, “Male Homosexuality in Modern Arabic Literature,” Imagined Masculinities: Male Identity and Culture in the Modern Middle East, ed. Mai Ghoussoub and Emma Sinclair-Webb (London: Saqi Books, 2000), 169–198, see especially 170–171.Google Scholar
  10. 26.
    In another version of this chapter, I have compared Fawzi’s Sudan narrative with that of the British novelist G. A. Henty: With Kitchener in the Soudan: a Story of Atbara and Omdurman (London: Blackie and Sons, 1903).Google Scholar
  11. 28.
    Timothy Mitchell, Colonising Egypt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988).Google Scholar
  12. 29.
    Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000), 4.Google Scholar

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© Lahoucine Ouzgane and Robert Morrell 2005

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  • Wilson Chacko Jacob

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