Subject Formation and History in
the Performances of Effendi Masculinity
When the most basic concepts—the concepts, as it is said, from
which we begin—are suddenly seen to be not concepts but prob-
lems, not analytic problems either but historical movements that
are still unresolved, there is no sense in listening to their so-
norous summons or their resounding clashes. We have only, if
we can, to recover the substance from which their forms were
cast.—raymond Williams,
Marxism and Literature
The early Egyptian nationalist and social reformer, the young firebrand
Mustafa Kamil, was in Europe during the summer of 1894.1 In July and
August, he visited two world exhibitions held in Belgium and France. He
was highly perturbed at one and disconcerted by the other because of
what he saw in the “Arab-style” (‘arabiyyat al-shakl ) pavilions. He was
a discerning critic, and he compared the Antwerp Exhibition less favor-
ably to the Lyons International and Colonial Exhibition. The exhibition at
Lyons was sophisticated and presented a unique and “solid study of con-
ditions in the East, its industries, and trade”; at Antwerp the exhibition
managed to cause great offense through its inept model of an “Egyptian
Street.”2 At Lyons, Kamil was able to maintain somewhat of a distance
since the displays presented scenes and settings from elsewhere in North
Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. He reported on the pavilions of Algeri-
ans, Tunisians, and Arabians as if they were alien, or Other, to the Egyp-
tian. Politically and personally, however, the two exhibitions were simi-
larly provocative.
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