Sabrina Elisabeth Lilleby
Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationTexas, Austin, U. of
Grant numberGr. 9914
Approve DateOctober 24, 2019
Project TitleLilleby, Sabrina (Texas, Austin, U. of) "Healing the self: infrastructural and reproductive labor among women in Cairo"
The empirical observation animating this project is the flourishing of mental health “talk” among women in post-revolutionary Cairo. Placing this phenomenon within the context of the recent years’ restrictions on communal dissent and an intense economic downturn in Egypt, this project asks why affliction, as well as its healing practices, are increasingly expressed through the language of mental health in the historical present. Rather than studying the emotional and psychic pain felt by individuals simply as results of biological pathologies or past experiences, I trace the ways the current affective atmosphere “press down upon” subjects and produce symptomatic reactions on the emotional and psychic level (Anderson, 2009). In specific affective atmosphere, I study the ways women continue to produce social life in the city through work on themselves. These processes highlight how women — through their reproductive labor — are crucial as human infrastructure in Cairo (Simone, 2009) and how their repair work is a form of gendered labor of the self. Through participant observation, interviews, life histories and archival work in several avenues of healing, I show how women who engage in the personal act of healing themselves also in fact heal their community.