On January 30, the Mellon Globalization Forum held its inaugural Faculty Research lecture by Dr. Sara Nimis, titled "Metaphorical or Metaphysical? Miraculous Bodies in Egyptian literature." The event brought together faculty members and students from fields such as International and Global Studies, Anthropology, History, French, Spanish, Russian, and Biology.
Dr. Nimis discussed adaptations of traditional representation of saintly bodies in hagiography into national allegory in Salwa Bakr’s novella, Maqam ‘Atiya (1986).Dr. Nimis argued that Bakr’s description of the body of the eccentric ‘Atiyya, while adopting themes familiar from the postclassical hagiographic tradition, addressed twentieth century concerns. By contrasting the fecundity of the saint’s body with the fossilized remains of the ancient Egyptian civilization, the narrative challenged masculinist narratives of Egyptian history, both colonial and nationalist. The representation of ‘Atiyya’s body as consuming, growing, excreting and decaying in patterns imbued with meaning for the faithful has continuous with the postclassical tradition.
Dr. Sara Nimis, who is currently a Mellon Post-doctoral Fellow in International and Global Studies at Sewanee, received a PhD from Georgetown University Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies, where she studied classic genres of Islamic literature, including Qur’an, hadith, law, and sacred biography. Her research and teaching deal with a broad range of contemporary topics, including Sufism (Islamic Mysticism), gender, sexuality and the body in Islam, Islamic environmental activism, the social and political history of Egypt, modernization and secularization in Egypt, Arabic language and literature and postcolonial literature, emphasizing the continued relevance of classical interpretive traditions in informing the framing, reasoning and emotional impact of symbols and arguments, in many areas of cultural production.