Omaima M. Abou-Bakr is Professor of English and Comparative Literature in the Department of English Language and Literature at Cairo University. She is a founding member of the Women and Memory Forum and serves as its Vice Chairperson. Omaima received her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley in 1987 with a double specialisation in English and Arabic literature, and focusing in her thesis on the poetry of Al-Shushtari. She received an MA in English Literature from North Carolina State University in 1981, writing her thesis on the figure of Cleopatra in Shawqi and Shakespeare, and a BA in English language and literature from Cairo University in 1978.
In addition to Cairo University, she has taught at North Carolina State University (1979 – 1981); the University of California at Berkeley (1982 – 1989, and again in 1994 and 1997); Qatar University (2006 – 2009); and Zayed University, UAE (2013).
Her scholarly activities, activism and publications are wide-ranging. These include:
– Attended and participated in numerous conferences and symposiums locally, regionally, and internationally—and invited to give seminars—on cross-cultural issues and comparative literature, women’s history in medieval Islam, gender issues in the Islamic and Arabic tradition, and cultural history of women in Islam. The following are only selected highlights:
– Received a three-month research fellowship from the ICRW (International Center of Research on women) in Washington, D.C. (April – June 1999), to conduct research on women and gender in Qur’anic exegetical literature.
– Participated in the Conference on “Women in the Islamic World – Muslim Women in Germany: Positive Role Models,” organized by the Federal Foreign Office, in Berlin, May 24, 2004.
– Participated in the 45th Congress of the Indonesian “Aisyiyah” Organization in Malang, East Java on July 2nd, 2005 and its International Seminar on “The Impact of Globalization and Neo-liberalism on Humankind.” Gave a paper entitled The Challenges and Opportunities of Muslim Women in the Era of Globalization.
– Lectured on The Role of Muslim Women in the Modern World in the Institution of “Dar al-Salam” in East Java, Indonesia, (July 4-5, 2005)
– Received a three-week Fulbright scholarship at Shippensburg University, PA in USA (November 2006) under the “Visiting Muslim Specialist Program,” to lecture on Islamic and Arabic culture.
– Participated with paper entitled “Articulating Gender: Muslim Women Intellectuals in the Pre-modern Period” in the regional & international conference on Arab Women: Past and Present, in Doha, Qatar, March 3-5, 2006.
– Participated in Workshop on “Reconsidering Islamic Feminism: Deconstruction or the Quest of Authenticity?” organized by the Program of “Europe in the Middle East; the Middle East in Europe” of the Berlin-Brandenburgische Academy, in Berlin, April 26-28, 2007.
– Invited to speak regularly to MESP (the Middle Eastern Studies Program) in Cairo on the status of women in Islam and Islamic feminism.
– Attended the launch of “Musawah Global Meeting for Equality & Justice in the Muslim Family,” in Kuala Lumpur, February 13 – 17, 2009, and participated in the workshops on knowledge building.
– Participated in the Research Project on the Cultural History of Women in the Arabian Gulf, (the Qatar Foundation) 2007-2009, as member of Advisory Board.
– Participated in the Fourth International Congress on Islamic Feminism (Madrid, October 21 – 24, 2010), with a presentation entitled: “The Future of Islamic Feminism and the Production of Knowledge: Inter-textual Readings.”
– Attended the 12th Mediterranean Research Meeting, organized by the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies of the European University Institute, held in Montecatini Terme, 6-9 April 2011, and co-directed the workshop: “The Many Faces of Islamic Feminism.” Also participated with a paper entitled “What’s Done can be Undone: Un-interpreting gender hierarchy in Qur’anic exegesis.”
– Received a CASAW (Center for the Advanced Study of the Arab World) Visiting Fellowship in the School of Languages Linguistics and Cultures, at the University of Manchester (May 1st – June 7th, 2011); presented a seminar entitled: “Christian and Muslim Women Mystics in the Middle Ages: Interpreting Medieval Female Spirituality.”
– Joined the “Musawah Knowledge Building Initiative” project; attended the Conceptual Workshop on Developing an Egalitarian Understanding of qiwamah and wilayah, November 24-26, 2011 in Amman, Jordan; participated with a paper entitled: “The Interpretive Legacy of qiwamah as Exegetical Construct.”
– Organized and coordinated the international conference “Feminism and Islamic Perspectives: New Horizons of Knowledge and Reform” – in cooperation with DEDI, Kvinfo, & The Women and Memory Forum (Cairo, March 18-19, 2012).
– Participated in the international workshop “Aesthetics of the Sublime” organized by the Orient Institute-Beirut & Heidelberg University (Cairo, 15-17 December, 2012), with a presentation entitled “ ‘Bride of the Qur’an’: An Aesthetic Reading of surat al-Rahman.”
– Participated in the tenth annual conference: U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Doha, Qatar, June 9-11, 2013.
– Author of several book reviews in printed magazines and newspapers, and on-line.
– Founding member of The Women and Memory Forum (Egyptian NGO & Research Center) since 1996. Experience in conducting research projects, preparing publications, organizing conferences and symposiums, and coordinating gender education workshops.
– Member in the research team of the “Musawah” Movement, a global campaign conducted by the Sisters in Islam organization, based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to implement equality and justice through reforming family laws in Muslim countries.
– Cooperating with Mada Media Institute and Nun Forum in societal activities and events, promoting dialogue and raising awareness on women’s citizenship and rights in Islam.
She serves on the board of various associations. These including the Editorial Board of IJMES (2010-2012); Advisory Board of Center for Epistemological Studies—Cairo; Editorial Advisory board of Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics; The Danish Egyptian Dialogue Institute (DEDI); and International Advisory Group (AIG) of “Musawah”.
Omaima’s research interests include topics in medieval comparative literature, mystical poetry, English poetry; East-West cross-cultural relations and historical interaction; female spirituality, women’s mysticism in Christianity and Islam, feminist theology; and re-reading Arab & Islamic cultural history from a gender-sensitive perspective, gender issues in Islamic history & culture, women in religious discourses, and Islamic feminism.
- In English:
- “The Symbolic Function of Metaphor in Medieval Sufi Poetry,” Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics, 12 (1992), 40-57.
- “The Worshipped Worshipper and the Deified Soul in Shushtari and St. John of the cross.” In Proceedings: The Second International Symposium on Comparative Literature. Cairo: Cairo University, 1993, pp. 227-43.
- “Abrogation of the Mind in the Poetry of Jalal al-Din Rumi,” Alif, 14 (1994), 37-63.
- “Historical Facts or Fallacies? The Character of the Prophet Muhammad.” In Proceedings: The Third International Symposium on Comparative Literature. Cairo: Cairo University, 1995, pp. 347-59.
- “Mystical Elements in John Keats.” In Cairo Studies in English. Cairo: Cairo University, 1995, pp. 147-64.
- “To Write or Not to Write? That is the Question.” In Proceedings: First EFL Skills Conference: New Directions in Writing. Cairo: The American University of Cairo, 1996, pp. 111-15.
- “The Religious Other: Christian Images in Sufi Poetry,” Cairo Papers in Social Science, 19, no. 2 (1996), 96-108.
- “The Representation of Female Spirituality in Alexander Pope’s ‘Eloisa to Abelard.’” In Proceedings: The Fourth International Symposium on Comparative Literature. Cairo: Anglo-Egyptian bookshop, 1997, pp. 589-609.
- “Allegory of the Soul: A Reading of Rumi’s Arabic Poetry.” In Tradition and Modernity in Arabic Literature. Issa Boullata and Terri Deyoung. Fayatteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1997, pp. 247-71.
- “Islamic Sources in Petrus Alfonsi’s ‘Disciplina Clericalis.’” In Proceedings of the International Conference: Comparative Literature in the Arab World. Cairo: Cairo University, 1998.
- “The Image of the Saracen Sultan in Mandeville’s Travels.” In The Arabs and Britain: Changes and Exchanges. Cairo: The British Council, 1999, pp. 35-45.
- “A Muslim Woman’s Reflections on Gender.” (1999) islam21.net/pages/about/about/htm
- “Reading History as Text: A Postmodernist Approach to the Medieval Past and the Case of Women Mystics.” In Proceedings: The Sixth International Symposium on Comparative Literature. Cairo: Cairo University, 2001, pp. 647-667.
- “Islamic Feminism: What’s in a Name? Preliminary Reflections,” AMEWS Review, xv, xvi Winter/Spring (2001), 1-4.
- “Teaching the Words of the Prophet: Women Instructors of the Hadith (14th & 15th century).” HAWWA: Journal of Women of the Middle East and the Islamic World, 1, no. 3 (2003), 306-328.
- “Al-Shushtari, Abu al-Hasan.” In Medieval Iberia: An Encyclopedia. Michel Gerli & Samuel Armistead. Taylor and Francis Publishers, 2003.
- “Articulating Gender: Muslim Women Intellectuals in the Pre-modern Period,” Arab Studies Quarterly, 32, no. 3 (2010).
- “Women’s Religious Activities in the Arabian Peninsula: A Historical Outlook.” In Gulf Women. Amira Sonbol and Kira Dreher. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2012.
- “Representations: Memoirs, Autobiographies, Biographies: Writing in Another Language: Overview.” Encyclopedia of Women & and Islamic Cultures. General Editor Suad Joseph. Brill, 2011. Brill Online. http://www.brill.nl/
- Feminism and Islamic Perspectives: New Horizons of Knowledge and Reform (Cairo: WMF, DEDI, Kvinfo, 2013).
- “To Be or Not to Be…a Muslim feminist in the Arab (Islamic) Spring,” AMEWS E-Bulletin, 1 (January 2013), 1-2.
- “Satellite Piety: Contemporary TV Islamic Programs in Egypt.” In Popular Culture in the Middle East and North Africa: A Postcolonial Outlook. Mounira Soliman & Walid El Hamamsy. New York: Routledge, 2013.
- “Rings of Memory: ‘Writing’ Muslim Women and the Question of Authorial Voice.” The Muslim World, 103, no. 3(2013), 320-333.
- “Turning the Tables: Perspectives on the Construction of Muslim Manhood,” HAWWA 11, 2-3(2014), 89-107.
- “The Interpretive Legacy of qiwamah as an Exegetical Construct.” In Men in Charge: Rethinking Authority in Muslim Legal Tradition. Ziba Mir-Hosseini, Mulki al-Sharmani, & Jana Rumminger. UK: Oneworld Publications, 2015.
- “Islamic Feminism and the Equivocation of Political Engagement: ‘Fair is Foul, and Foul is Fair.’” In Rethinking Gender in Revolutions and Resistance: Lessons from the Arab World. Maha El Said, Lena Meari, & Nicola Pratt. UK: Zed Books, 2015.
- “Gender and Ethics in surat al-nisa’.” (Research in progress)
- In Arabic:
- “Tafsir al-tafsir: halit rabi’ah al-‘adawiya” (Interpreting Interpretation: The Case of Rabi’ah al-‘Adawiyah), Hagar, 1 (1992).
- “Al-maskh fi Alf laylah wa-laylah” (Metamorphosis in the Arabian Nights), Fusul, 13:1 (1994).
- “Imra’ah min ummati, hadah ‘amaluha: Rabi’ah alo ‘Adawiyah marra ukhra” (‘This is the work of a woman from my people’: Rabi’ah al-Adawiyah Again), Hagar, 3/4 (1996).
- “Al-muhaddithat fi al-tarikh al-islami” (Women Hadith-Scholars in Islamic History), Hagar 5/6 (1998).
- “Qira’ah fi tarikh ‘abidat al-islam” (A Reading in the History of Islam’s Women Worshippers/Mystics). In Zaman al-nisa’ wa-al-dhakirah al-badilah (Women’s Time and Alternative Memory), eds. Hoda Elsadda & Omaima Abou-Bakr. Cairo: The Women & Memory Forum, 1998.
- “Al-nisa’ wa-mihnat al-tibb fi al-tarikh al-islami” (Women and the Medical Profession in Islamic History). Awraq al-dhakirah Series (Occasional Papers), no. 1, (Cairo: Women & Memory Forum, 1999).
- “Al-mar’ah wa-al-hayah al-diniyah fi al-‘susur al-wusta” (Women and Religious Life in the Middle Ages between Islam and the West). Occasional Papers, no. 2, (Cairo: Women & Memory Forum, 2001).
- “Al-khitab al-tarikhi al-niswi ‘inda Qadriyah Hussein” (The Feminist/Historical Discourse in Qadriyah Hussein’s Shahirat al-Nisa’). In Proceedings: Arab Women in the 1920s. Beirut: Tajamu’ al-bahithat al-lubnaniyat, 2001.
- “Al-mar’ah al-arabiyah wa-al-wa’y al-dini al-tahrruri” (Arab Women and Religious Liberational Consciousness). In Proceedings: The Arab Woman and the Transformations of a New Era. Damascus, Syria: Dar al-fikr, 2002.
- Al-Mar’ah wa-al-Jindar (Woman and Gender: Eliminating Social and Cultural Discrimination of the Sexes). Damascus, Syria: Dar al-fikr, 2002.
- “Surat al-rajul fi al-kitabat al-islamiyah” (The Image of Men in Modern and pre-Modern Islamic Writings). In A’isha Taymur: tahaddiyat al-thabit wa-al-mutaghayyir fi al-qarn al-tasi’ ‘ashar (A’isha Taymur and the Challenges of Social Transformation), ed. Hoda Elsadda. Cairo: Women & Memory Forum, 2004.
- “Khitab al-usuliyah al-hadathiyah wa-tarikh al-nisa’” (The Discourse of Modernist Fundamentalism and Women’s History), Tibah: Journal in Feminist Theory, 3 (2003).
- Introduction, Qadriya Hussein, Shahirat al-nisa’ fi al-‘alam al-islami (Famous Women in the History of the Islamic World, by Qadriya Hussein). Cairo: Women & Memory Forum, 2004.
- “Al-Niswiyah al-islamiyah: ishkaliyat al-dakhil wa-al-kharij” (Islamic Feminism: Internal and External Problematics), Tibah 7 (2006).
- “Tabi’at al-mar’ah: muqarabat” (Approaches to Women’s Nature). Cairo: Women & Memory Forum, 2007.
- “Al-nashat al-iqtisadi al-hadari lil-nisa’ fi misr al-islamiyah” (Women’s Economic Activities in Urban Islamic Egypt). Occasional Papers, no. 4, (Cairo: Women & Memory Forum, 2007).
- “Al-tanqib al-watha’iqi wa-al-tarikhi wa-‘i’adit bina’ tarikh al-mar’ah” (Investigating Historical Records/Documents and Re-constructing Women’s History). In Muraja’ah fi khitabat mu’asirah hawl al-mar’ah (Re-visioning Contemporary Discourses on Women), ed. Amani Salih. Cairo: Hiwar al-hadarat/Cairo University, 2007.
- “Ittijahat wa-tayyarat fi al-bahth al-niswi al-mu’asir” (Trends and Directions in Contemporary Islamic Feminist Research). Forthcoming in Proceedings of Al-niswiyah al-‘arabiyah—ru’yah naqdiyah (Arab Feminisms-A Critical Perspective), American University of Beirut, October 4-7, 2009.
- “Khitab al-rajul min manzur Islami niswi,” (‘The Discourse/Address to Men’ from an Islamic Feminist Perspective), Al-Misbar, 47 (2011).
- (Ed.) Al-niswiyah wa-al-dirasat al-diniyah (Feminism and Religious Studies: a Reader), trans. Randa K. Aboubakr. Cairo: WMF, 2012.
- (Ed.) Al-niswiyyah wa-al-manzur al-islami: afaq jadidah lil-ma’rifah wa-al-islah (Cairo: WMF, 2013).
- “Al-qiwamah: nahwa ru’yah ijtihadiyyah badilah,” (Qiwamah: towards an alternative ijtihadi vision), publication series of Nun al-Hadarah, ed. Fatima Hafiz, general ed. Hisham Ga’far. Cairo: Mada Institute, 2014.
- In French:
- “Le feminisme islamique et la production de la connaissance: perspectives dans l’Egypte postrevolutionnaire,” Feminismes islamiques, ed. Zahra Ali. Paris: La Fabrique editions, 2012.
- Translations—from Arabic to English:
- Princess Dhat al-Himma, Shawqi Abdel Hakim. Cairo: Foreign Cultural Information Department, 1995. Critical Introduction.
- “The Pasha’ Beard,” Sekina Fouad. In A Voice of Their Own: Short Stories by Egyptian Women. Angele Botros Samaan. Cairo: Foreign Cultural Relations, 1994.
- “Al-Tayyib Salih: Myth-Maker,” Ahmad Shams al-Din Haggagi. In Alif: A View from Within. Ferial Ghazoul. Cairo: The American University Press, 1994.
From English to Arabic:
- Entries in Mawsu’at al-Masrah (Encyclopedia of the Theatre: translation of The Oxford Companion to the Theatre, 1983). Ed. Fatma Moussa. Cairo: Al-Hay’a al-misriya al-amma, 1998.
- Entries in Mawsu’at al-nisa’ wa-al-thaqafat al-islamiyyah (Arabic on-line translation of EWIC).