Hoda Yousef

Composing Egypt

Reading, Writing, and the Emergence of a Modern Nation, 1870-1930

Stanford University Press 2016

New Books in CommunicationsNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Intellectual HistoryNew Books in Literary StudiesNew Books in Middle Eastern StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network March 20, 2018 Nadirah Mansour

Literacy is often portrayed as a social good. Composing Egypt: Reading, Writing, and the Emergence of a Modern Nation, 1870-1930 (Stanford University Press, 2016),...

Literacy is often portrayed as a social good. Composing Egypt: Reading, Writing, and the Emergence of a Modern Nation, 1870-1930 (Stanford University Press, 2016), Hoda Yousef has a different take on it, portraying it as a tool. Yousef uses reading and writing to interrogate how new social practices were changing Egypt in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, demonstrating how they were used to further divide or fracture the public sphere. Literate, illiterate, and semi-literate Egyptians all engaged in the written word via different means, be they petition-writers, those who appealed to scribes, or coffee-house frequenters who all gathered to hear a newspaper be read. Ultimately, it was the emergence of this diversely literate population that shaped the Egyptian nation that emerged in the twentieth century.

Hoda Yousef is assistant professor at Denison University, previously she served as an assistant professor of history at Franklin and Marshall College. She is a historian of the modern Middle East and the Islamic World with a focus on cultural and social history and gender in society, with degrees from Georgetown and Duke Universities.


Nadirah Mansour is a graduate student at Princeton University’s Department of Near Eastern Studies working on the global intellectual history of the Arabic-language press. She tweets @NAMansour26 and produces another Middle-East and North Africa-related podcast: Reintroducing.

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