The persistent metaphor : gender in the representations of the Cairene house by Edward W. Lane and Hassan Fathy
Gender in the representations of the Cairene house by Edward W. Lane and Hassan Fathy
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This thesis is developed as a critical study of the representations of the Cairene house in the contexts of colonial and post-colonial times. Based on the observation that the introverted image of the house remains constant over the two eras, it explores the underlying cultural agendas with relation to the issue of gender segregation in the house. The two canonical representations of the house in their respective times; by Edward W. Lane in mid 19th century and by Hassan Fathy in mid and late 20th century, defined the Cairene house with constant thematic focus on its introverted character. This inwardness is inextricably related with the social practice of separation of genders in the Cairene society which was addressed in both representations in varying degrees. In colonial representation, the focus on the introverted character of the Cairene house became a venue for commenting on the social practice of subjugating woman in the Cairene society. Certain selected type of urban residences affirmed the colonial thesis of segregation of woman in the house. Thus the representation showed an overt emphasis on harem quarter and its associated architectural and spatial elements. The harem was highlighted to assert the difference between the social norms of the colonized and the colonizing cultures. The Middle Eastern society was thus categorically reduced to a segregative and inferior Other which in reciprocity defined the liberal and superior identity of the colonizing West. The post-colonial representation perpetuated the same introverted image of the Cairene house to establish an Arab identity. This identity is anti-western, which looked for its precedents in examples considered uncontaminated by the western Influence. Climatic and social rationalization established the same interiority as appropriate and contextual. In this reversal of connotation, segregation became privacy. The anti-colonial rhetoric of identity of the self is both a reaction to and a derivation from the colonial representation of the Other. The post-colonial search for identity paradoxically ends up in replicating the colonial image of the Cairene house. The post-colonial representation of the Cairene house exploits the traditional and segregated role of woman in the domestic space in establishing an anti-western identity. This speaks of an internal male-female power hierarchy, as Asish Nandy observes, " ... the internal colonialism in turn uses the fact of external threat to legitimize and perpetuate itself." Caught in the politics of identity, the representations of the Cairene house affirmed the secluded existence of woman in the society.
Thesis (M.S.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Architecture, 1993.Includes bibliographical references (leaves 107-111).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Architecture
Massachusetts Institute of Technology