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Beauty, the Beast, and the Baseball Bat: Ethnography of Self-Defense Training for Upper-Class Women in Revolutionary Cairo (Egypt)

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image of Comparative Sociology
For content published from 1960-2001, see International Journal of Comparative Sociology.

AbstractJanuary 2011, Egypt: a huge revolutionary movement began. Since this moment, the perception of insecurity has clearly increased among the upper class. This feeling of vulnerability has opened the doors to new market opportunities related to personal security. In charming neighborhoods of Cairo, offers of self-defense training for women flourished. These training classes offer a valuable and fascinating ethnographic field for addressing the way emotional narratives shape social mobilizations. In class, self-defense participants confirm their shared social belonging while expressing feelings of anxiety in specific terms. Through the Egyptian case, I illustrate that anxiety constitutes a relevant analytical tool to better understand the social and emotional dynamics playing out in revolutionary societies.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Anthropology, Aix-Marseille UniversitéIDEMEC (UMR 7307), Maison Méditerranéenne des Sciences de l’Homme,


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