The exceptional Egyptian sociologist, AUC professor, and AUC Press author Mona Abaza sadly left us yesterday after a long and valiant battle with cancer. To everyone who knew her, Mona was a force of life; a brilliant scholar, and a mentor to her students and peers.
Throughout her academic career, which spanned three decades, Mona produced a huge amount of work on a wide variety of topics. Her creative rigor and quirky humor are infused in her writing on public and urban space, memory, and visual resistance.
Mona’s work took a more personal turn in her beautifully illustrated oral history book, The Cotton Plantation Remembered: An Egyptian Family Story (AUC Press, 2013), in which she weaved narratives collected from her native town in the Delta with memories of her family to produce a thorough analysis of class dynamics in the second half of the nineteenth century.
She launched the website Archive of an ‘Izba as “an attempt at inventing, if not, at re-ordering and interpreting an archive of documents, of account books, of family albums, photographs, and contemporary short videos of a former cotton estate, located in the village of Balamun, in the governorate of Mansura.”
AUC Press senior commissioning editor Nadia Naqib recounts the time she spent working with Mona on the book: “She was brilliant, vivacious, funny, and one of the most interesting people I have ever met.”
In speaking of her friendship with Mona and looking back through the archive of beautiful photographs taken by the late scholar, AUC Press senior Web editor Ingrid Wassmann remembers her as being “so aesthetic, so sensitive, and so refined.”
“Even during the last months, when Mona was very sick, she was still dreaming up ideas for new projects,” explains AUC Press managing editor Laura Gribbon. “Mona was never comfortable with just seeing where life took her, or accepting of any kind of personal or social injustice, and she fought constantly for what she wanted. Her larger-than-life presence was always felt immediately, as soon as she walked into a room. Her stories, told with meticulous detail, and often with her characteristically infectious humor, would draw you into her world, just as her fascination with people led her to dive into their lives and to write about them with a similar zeal.”
Such passion is desperately needed in academia and in life, and Mona leaves behind her a legacy and insightful scholarship that will be remembered by many.
Our thoughts are with her daughter Laura Stauth.
Photo credit: Peonies, Mona Abaza, 6 January 2017
Mona’s other publications include Cairo Collages: Everyday Life Practices After the Event (2020), Twentieth-Century Egyptian Art: The Private Collection of Sherwet Shafei, co-authored with Sherwet Shafei (AUC Press, 2011), The Changing Consumer Cultures of Modern Egypt: Cairo’s Urban Reshaping (2006), and The Changing Image of Women in Rural Egypt (Cairo Papers in Social Science, 1987).
Mona Abaza was born in Egypt in 1959. She was a professor of sociology at the American University in Cairo. Her research fields included religious and cultural networks between the Middle East and South Asia, and consumer culture and the art market in Egypt. In 1996–97, she was a fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. She was living between Berlin and Cairo.
The Egyptian sociologist and AUC professor Mona Abaza, a shining star of academia, sadly passed away today in Berlin. May her beautiful soul rest in peace. pic.twitter.com/iD90p6K8OS
— Amro Ali (@_amroali) July 5, 2021