Study Guide

A Border Passage Power

By Leila Ahmed

Power

Ahmed focuses intently on the granting (or taking back) of power and authority in this work. In the realm of politics, we see the struggle between colonial authority and the need for self-determination. In religion, there is the tension between textual Islam and the lived tradition, which also boils down to a clash of the sexes.

Personally, for Ahmed, there's the push and pull of identity: who gets to determine who she is and how much say she has in accepting or rejecting these ideas. This is the crux of the work since Ahmed's quest to understand her political, cultural, and familial identities leads her to examine the forces that have shaped her life and the life of the communities that she moves through.

Questions About Power

  1. How does British colonial rule of Egypt affect Ahmed's identity? How does it affect her family?
  2. What is the big deal about Nasser and the Aswan High Dam? Why does it affect Ahmed's family so profoundly?
  3. Why does Ahmed feel that she absolutely must leave Egypt to complete her grad studies in England?
  4. What are the differences between women's and men's power in Ahmed's family and culture? Does she see the same power dynamic in other places and cultures?

Chew on This

Ahmed feels that colonial rule had a more profound (though less visible) effect on her mother's life than it did on her father's.

As Ahmed learns in Abu Dhabi, sometimes things that are meant to empower people can actually destroy them.