Writing Culture, Writing Lives

Fictional Boundaries
  • Cynthia Nelson


Born at different times and in different countries, socialized into selfhood within different family structures and value systems, learning different languages and experiencing different historical realities, Doria Shafik and I would seem to have very little in common. Yet for 42 years we overlapped in time. She was 25 years old and had just completed her License d’ Etat at the Sorbonne when I was born in Augusta, Maine, in 1933. Twenty years later as a nationally and internationally recognized leader of an Egyptian women’s movement, Dr. Doria Shafik came to America, invited by Garland Evans Hopkins, Dorothy Thompson, 4 and the American Friends of the Middle East, to lecture throughout the United States on the status of the Arab woman and her struggle to obtain full political equality I was then a senior at the University of Maine, totally ignorant of her existence or her mission and equally illiterate about Arab/Egyptian culture and history In the mid 1950s, America was passing through the agony of the McCarthy era and the only awareness of the Middle East that I possessed at this juncture was that a state of Israel had been created for the Jews who survived World War II. Several years later, having obtained my Ph.D. in anthropology from Berkeley in I963,1 embarked on H.M.S. The Mauretania and sailed from New York harbor to Alexandria, Egypt, to assume a teaching position at The American University in Cairo. Doria Shafik was then living in near total seclusion.


Middle East Sociological Imagination Spirit Possession Interpretive Inquiry House Arrest 
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Copyright information

© Mary Ann Fay 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cynthia Nelson

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