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Fictions of DignityEmbodying Human Rights in World Literature$
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Elizabeth S. Anker

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780801451362

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801451362.001.0001

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Women’s Rights and the Lure of Self-Determination in Nawal El Saadawi’s Woman at Point Zero

Women’s Rights and the Lure of Self-Determination in Nawal El Saadawi’s Woman at Point Zero

(p.115) Chapter Four Women’s Rights and the Lure of Self-Determination in Nawal El Saadawi’s Woman at Point Zero
Fictions of Dignity

Elizabeth S. Anker

Cornell University Press

This chapter offers a reading of Nawal El Saadawi's Woman at Point Zero to highlight the fragile status of women's rights as well as the discordant relationship between the individual and the collective. Through the protagonist Firdaus—an Egyptian prostitute on death row for the offense of murder—Woman at Point Zero experiments not so much with the idiom of rights alone as with corresponding liberal vocabularies of selfhood. This chapter examines the formal properties of Woman at Point Zero and how they probe the appropriate mode and genre for representing human rights violations. It also considers how Firdaus's experience of her erotic life contravenes notions of privacy, bodily integrity, and consent that are typically associated with liberal political thought accounts for embodiment. Finally, it explores how popular discourses surrounding female circumcision/female genital mutilation divulge the problematic assumptions often embedded within idealized conceptions of bodily integrity.

Keywords:   women's rights, Nawal El Saadawi, Woman at Point Zero, selfhood, human rights violations, bodily integrity, embodiment, female circumcision, privacy, human rights

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