Tracing Tarbiya: Women, Childrearing, and Education in Egypt and Lebanon, 1850-1939


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This dissertation is a feminist history of the concept of tarbiya, an old Arabic word for cultivation that, in the nineteenth century, came to refer to new structures of formal schooling and new pedagogies, as well as the female labor of childrearing, ethical cultivation, and subject formation in the home. The project focuses on women intellectuals in Beirut and Cairo who became preeminent producers of Arabic pedagogical thought between 1850 and 1939, showing how early Arab feminists and Islamists alike came to share the view that childrearing was key to women’s political labor and the future of representative governance. Ultimately, tarbiya promised to discipline both mothers and children; to link gendered individuals to an emerging notion of society; and to produce an Arab or Islamic world capable of facing European colonialism, the onset of mass politics, and the exigencies of modernizing reforms.