The Women and Memory Forum: A Feminist Archive - Professor Hodda Elsadda

Tamara Maatouk Discussion

University of Manchester: Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies Lecture Series

Empowering Muslim Women in History, Literature, and the Arts

Wednesday 03 May 2023, 17:00 GMT 

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The Women and Memory Forum: A Feminist Archive - Professor Hodda Elsadda

Abstract: My talk will offer reflections on issues and practices related to feminist archives, the challenges and dilemmas faced in establishing an archive that resists or subverts dominant/mainstream narratives. I use archive both literally and metaphorically: literally as a place, virtual or physical which curates documents, historical sources, people, and materials in diverse forms and genres; and metaphorically as used by cultural theorists as a metaphor for knowledge production as part of the dynamics of power struggles.

My reflections are based on my work in establishing an oral history archive of women in Egypt at the Women and Memory Forum (WMF). WMF is a research organization, founded in 1995, and brings together a group of feminist academics/activists whose intellectual projects challenge dominant narratives about gender roles, and intervene in the construction and dissemination of new knowledges that encourage a rethinking of unequal power relations and structures. 

Bio: Hoda Elsadda is a feminist activist, Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Cairo University, and Co-founder of the Women and Memory Forum ( 

Her research interests are in the areas of gender studies, comparative literature, and oral history. She is author of Gender, Nation and the Arabic Novel: Egypt: 1892-2008 (Edinburgh UP and Syracuse UP, 2012); and co-editor of Oral History in Times of Change: Gender, Documentation and the Making of Archives(Cairo Papers, 35:1, 2018). 

Concept of the Series: Exploring the imagination and representation of women in history and today is a fully-fledged ambition that this series of lectures would like to explore through MENA women’s work in art, literature, history, archaeology, and social sciences, along with their representation and perception in the works of non-MENA academics.  

The series includes speakers from the MENA region as well as from other parts of the globe. The meeting point of these speakers is their research on the women of this region. Through their multi- and interdisciplinary distinctive, innovative, and creative approaches to their fields, they deconstruct the stereotypes of Muslim women and emphasize their diversity. This region, which comprises the Arab World and a large part of the Muslim World, is considered today as one of the hottest spots in world politics and economy, but as usual, women are the least visible participants in it and yet the most affected by the consequences of political and economic predicaments. More positively, however, they are central to the waves of social change taking place in this region at a dizzying speed.  

The series, which is envisaged as a platform for debate among academics, students, and the general public with interest in the broader theme of Women and Gender in MENA, started on 1 December 2021 and has run through to the end of the 2021-22 academic year on the zoom platform.  It is now starting its second round for 2022-23, which we hope will be as lively and wide reaching as last round. 

The organizers of this lecture series are two women and gender specialist. Professor Zahia Smail Salhi is Chair of Modern Arabic Studies and Dr Hatoon Alfassi is visiting Senior Research Fellow of the University of Manchester, Department of Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies. Dr Alfassi was formerly a faculty at the International Affairs Department of Qatar University, and the History Department of King Saud University. Both are very happy to invite you to engage in a Women and Gender Discussion which defeats geographical boundaries and extends the opportunity to participants from everywhere in the world.