At Once Human and Not Human: Law, Gender and Historical Becoming in Colonial Egypt



This article explores two approaches to the gendered human that occupied the historical stage of colonial Egypt. The first was juridical, the second was Islamic and mystical. Elaborating on the first, ‘juridical humanity’, this article probes the constitutive force of modern law in cementing the human as its teleology as well as the colonial operations of this force. Fashioning itself as an answer to the question ‘who is the human?’, juridical humanity took on particular salience in relation to women while engendering disciplinary operations: the humanising powers of colonial law instituted a system of bondage between the law and the woman-human. The mystical articulation, on the other hand, offered a competing vision for the human, one that constituted an answer to the question ‘where is the human?’, thereby making impossible the unleashing of colonial humanising powers.