Staff in the Department of Arabic

Publication details for Dr Abir Hamdar  

2010 Hamdar, Abir 'Female Physical Illness and Disability in Arab Women's Writing', Feminist Theory: Special Issue on Arab Feminisms 11, pp. 189-204

•Publication type: Journal papers: academic

•ISSN/ISBN: 1464-7001, 1741-2773

•DOI: 10.1177/1464700110366816

•View online: Online version


This article focuses on the representation of female physical illness and disability in the works of two Arab women writers: Iraqi Alia Mamdouh’s Habbat al Naftalin [Mothballs] (1986) and Egyptian Salwa Bakr’s al ‘Arabah al Dhahabiyah la Tas‘ad ila al Sama’ [The Golden Chariot] (1991). It argues that the representation of female illness in these works centres upon the figure of the sick mother. Despite the limitations of this trope of illness, both novels offer a more complex illness narrative than those of their Arab predecessors. By problematizing the representation of the sick woman/mother, both novels challenge the traditional role of the silent, sick female figure whose story remains outside the limits of representation. Finally, the article argues that this textual recuperation of the female suffering body is achieved through the employment of a mother— daughter plot which continues to represent the sick mother as socially and emotionally absent but which nevertheless renders her a central figure in the daughter’s narrative.