In the pre-modern Arab-Islamic world the act of writing significantly contributed to establishing and perpetuating a culture of gender, especially perspicuous in images and representations of women and men found in texts where stereotyped physical and moral features are portrayed. Gender relationships find their place particularly in what we could define as normative literature on sex and marriage (adab al-nikāḥ), but also in works of a wider scope (e.g., adab anthologies) that directly or indirectly describe interpersonal relationships. From idealization of the perfect wife to demonization of the cunning and ugly woman, passing through images of women being at the service of men’s pleasure, women’s representations in the literary production generally seem to be the result of a dominant, masculine voice and the expression of men’s interests, mainly focused on the feminine body and personality as serviceable commodities. The panel “Representations of Women in the Mamluk period,” presented at the Second Conference of the School of Mamlūk Studies (Liège, June 25–27, 2015), was conceived as a way of investigating representations of women in the textual production of the Mamluk period, aiming at better understanding gender relations in Mamluk society. The four papers of the panel are now published in this themed issue of MSR; the addition of a fifth article, stretching to the early Ottoman period, nicely complements the original group and shows transitional processes and the persistence of Mamluk elements in that time.




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