Until recently gender studies was almost synonymous with women’s studies. Over the past two decades, however, a contingent of Middle East scholars—including Marcia Inhorn, Paul Amar, Joseph Massad, Wilson Chacko Jacob, Khaled Fahmy, and Madawi Al-Rasheed—have led the development of masculinity studies in the region. Farha Ghannam’s book is part of this vanguard.

Ghannam’s key argument is that masculinity in Egypt is “a collective project” (3). She describes masculinity as complex and contested, both a social and an individual project as people debate what makes a man and what makes a good man. Over a lifetime men cobble together identities from competing ideologies: a man must respect his elders, but he must also assert himself. He must be gentle but must enforce his will through violence. Masculinity is above all fluid, defined through successes and failures, and...

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