In his latest exploration of the Egyptian malaise, Galal Amin first looks at the events of the months preceding the Revolution of 25 January 2011, pointing out the most important factors behind popular discontent. He then follows the ups and downs (mainly the downs) of the Revolution: the causes of rising hopes and expectations, mingled with successive disappointments, sometimes verging on despair, not least in the case of the presidential elections, when the Egyptian people were invited to choose between a rock and a hard place. This is followed by an outline of a possible brighter future for Egypt, based on a more balanced and faster growing economy, and a more democratic and equitable society, within a truly independent, modern, and secular state. The story of what happened to the 2011 Revolution may be a sad one, but if viewed within the larger context of Egypt’s economic and social developments of the last century, on which the author’s previous books threw very useful light, it can be regarded as one important step forward toward a much better future.
Based on both academic research and the author’s own personal experiences and impressions, this delightful and informative book examines the underlying causes of some of the more disturbing social, political, economic, and cultural phenomena that characterize Egyptian society in modern times. Through a fascinating and often highly entertaining examination of issues ranging from the middle class, religious fanaticism, and attitudes to the West and Western culture, to the Egyptian institution of the summer holiday by the sea and the performing arts and entertainment, Amin posits that social mobility after the 1952 Revolution changed the customs and habits, moral and material values, and patterns of consumption and investment of the aspiring classes. This insightful book will prove a thought-provoking read for those concerned with emerging economies, international development, and privatization, and will intrigue anyone with an interest in the social history of Egypt.
The 25 January 2011 uprising and the unprecedented dissent and discord to which it gave rise shattered the notion of homogeneity that had characterized state representations of Egypt and Egyptians since 1952. It allowed for the eruption of identities along multiple lines, including class, ideology, culture, and religion, long suppressed by state control. Concomitantly a profusion of women’s voices arose to further challenge the state-managed feminism that had sought to define and carefully circumscribe women’s social and civic roles in Egypt. Women in Revolutionary Egypt takes the uprising as the point of departure for an exploration of how gender in post-Mubarak Egypt came to be rethought, reimagined, and contested. It examines key areas of tension between national and gender identities, including gender empowerment through art and literature, particularly graffiti and poetry, the disciplining of the body, and the politics of history and memory. Shereen Abouelnaga argues that this new cartography of women’s struggle has to be read in a context that takes into consideration the micropolitics of everyday life as well as the larger processes that work to separate the personal from the political. She shows how a new generation of women is resisting, both discursively and visually, the notion of a fixed or ‘authentic’ notion of Egyptian womanhood in spite of prevailing social structures and in face of all gendered politics of imagined nation.
Juxtaposing Muslim scholars’ debates over women’s attendance in mosques with historical descriptions of women’s activities within Middle Eastern and North African mosques, Marion Holmes Katz shows how over the centuries legal scholars’ arguments have often reacted to rather than dictated Muslim women’s behavior. Tracing Sunni legal positions on women in mosques from the second century of the Islamic calendar to the modern period, Katz connects shifts in scholarly terminology and argumentation to changing constructions of gender. Over time, assumptions about women’s changing behavior through the lifecycle gave way to a global preoccupation with sexual temptation, which then became the central rationale for limits on women’s mosque access. At the same time, travel narratives, biographical dictionaries, and religious polemics suggest that women’s usage of mosque space often diverged in both timing and content from the ritual models constructed by scholars. Katz demonstrates both the concrete social and political implications of Islamic legal discourse and the autonomy of women’s mosque-based activities. She also examines women’s mosque access as a trope in Western travelers’ narratives and the evolving significance of women’s mosque attendance among different Islamic currents in the twentieth century.
This book tells a different story about water. Against the backdrop of the end of the Ottoman Empire to the Palestinian uprisings, Palestinian women recount life before and after piped water. While talking about fetching and managing household water, women also talked about being women. Women, Water, and Memory speaks of many different lives. We hear stories about women’s own strength and beauty, and about the woman who married a man whose ugly face made her sick. While one woman married the man “she cared for,” another was relieved that her husband died when she was too old to be forced to remarry. We learn about the joy they feel each time they dance at a wedding, the sheer satisfaction of lighting a cigarette, the loyalty and shared despair toward families with members in prison, and about the tears of sorrow at each death and the delight at each birth.
This research focuses on exploring and explaining women’s perceptions of and social responses to environmental change. Viewing risk selection and perception as ‘dynamic processes’ that are continuously changing and being reinterpreted through people’s ‘worldviews,’ it examines how pollution and decline of environmental conditions come to be regarded by Egyptian women as ‘risky.’ The research was conducted in three structurally different urban settings with different levels of exposure to pollution and different socio-economic levels of their residents. Data were generated by means of in-depth interviews with forty-four women from different walks of life. The research is gender specific, given the primary role of women as health care managers of their families. Thus, for women, environmental issues and health issues are closely related. Vol. 23 No. 4
Effendi Masculinity and Subject Formation in Colonial Modernity, 1870-1940
Wilson Chacko Jacob
This rich cultural history of the formation of an Egyptian national subject in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth is also a compelling critique of modern Middle Eastern historiography. Wilson Jacob argues that during British colonial rule (1882–1936), attempts to create a distinctively modern and Egyptian self free from the colonial gaze led to the formation of an ambivalent, performative subjectivity that he calls “effendi masculinity.” He traces effendi masculinity as it took hold during the interwar years, in realms from scouting and competitive sports to sex talk and fashion, considering its gendered performativity in relation to a late-nineteenth- century British discourse on masculinity and empire and an explicitly nationalist discourse on Egyptian masculinity. He contends that as an assemblage of colonial modernity, effendi masculinity was simultaneously local and global, national and international, and particular and universal.
Zar is both a possessing spirit and a set of reconciliation rites between the spirits and their human hosts: living in a parallel yet invisible world, the capricious spirits manifest their anger by causing ailments for their hosts, which require ritual reconciliation, a private sacrificial rite practiced routinely by the afflicted devotees. Originally spread from Ethiopia to the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf through the nineteenth-century slave trade, in Egypt zar has incorporated elements from popular Islamic Sufi practices, including devotion to Christian and Muslim saints. The ceremonies initiate devotees—the majority of whom are Muslim women—into a community centered on a cult leader, a membership that provides them with moral orientation, social support, and a sense of belonging. Practicing zar rituals, dancing to zar songs, and experiencing trance restore their well-being, which had been compromised by gender asymmetry and globalization. This new ethnographic study of zar in Egypt is based on the author’s two years of multi-sited fieldwork and firsthand knowledge as a participant, and her collection and analysis of more than three hundred zar songs, allowing her to access levels of meaning that had previously been overlooked. The result is a comprehensive and accessible exposition of the history, culture, and waning practice of zar in a modernizing world.
Egypt has placed its hopes on developing its vast and empty deserts as the ultimate solution to the country’s problems. New cities, new farms, new industrial zones, new tourism resorts, and new development corridors, all have been promoted for over half a century to create a modern Egypt and to pull tens of millions of people away from the increasingly crowded Nile Valley into the desert hinterland. The results, in spite of colossal expenditures and ever-grander government pronouncements, have been meager at best, and today Egypt’s desert is littered with stalled schemes, abandoned projects, and forlorn dreams. It also remains stubbornly uninhabited. Egypt’s Desert Dreams is the first attempt of its kind to look at Egypt’s desert development in its entirety. It recounts the failures of governmental schemes, analyzes why they have failed, and exposes the main winners of Egypt’s desert projects, as well as the underlying narratives and political necessities behind it, even in the post-revolutionary era.
This fully updated paperback edition addresses the latest projects as well as the discourses relating to Egypt’s desert development since the publication of the hardcover edition nearly four years ago, particularly the scheme to built a gigantic new capital east of Cairo.
The son of a fighter pilot, raised in an air force barracks, Ahmed Aboul Gheit was privy to the confidential meetings, undisclosed memoranda, and battle secrets of Egyptian diplomacy for many decades. After a stint at military college, he began his career at the Egyptian embassy in Cyprus before later going on to become permanent representative to the United Nations and eventually, Egypt’s minister of foreign affairs under Hosni Mubarak. In this fascinating memoir, Aboul Gheit looks back on the 1973 October War and the diplomatic efforts that followed it, revealing the secrets of his long career for the first time.
In vivid detail he describes the deliberations of Egypt’s political leadership in the run-up to the war, including the process of articulating Egypt’s war aims, the secret communications between President Sadat and U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the role of the Soviet Union during the war, and the unfolding of events on the battlefront in Sinai. He then gives a detailed and deeply personal account of the arduous process of peacemaking that followed, covering the 1973 Geneva Conference, the 1977 Mena House Conference, Sadat’s visit to Israel, the 1978 Camp David Accords, and the subsequent 1979 Egyptian–Israeli Peace Treaty.
From Sadat’s impassioned address to his cabinet on the eve of the war to delegations ripping out the wiring at their respective hotels, from Jimmy Carter cycling through the bungalows at Camp David to Yitzhak Shamir’s blunt admissions to his Arab counterparts in the 1991 Madrid conference, Aboul Gheit offers an information-packed, first-person account of a turbulent time in Middle Eastern history.
Oral history archives have always been at the forefront of liberatory social movements in general, and of feminist movement in particular. Until the end of the twentieth century in the Arab world, archives of women’s oral narratives were almost non-existent with the exception of small documentation efforts tied to individual research. However, since 2011, there has been a marked increase in the documentation of projects.
In this context, the Women and Memory Forum organized a conference in 2015 about the challenges of creating gender sensitive oral history archives in times of change. The papers in this collection shed light on documentation initiatives in Arab countries in transitional and conflict situations, in addition to international experiences. They engage with questions around archives and power, the challenges and opportunities presented by new technologies to the making and preserving of archives, ethical concerns in the construction of archives, women’s archives and the production of alternative knowledge, as well as conceptual and methodological issues in oral history.
Egyptian Masculinities through the Life of Musician Sayyid Henkish
Karin van Nieuwkerk
In this in-depth ethnography, Karin van Nieuwkerk takes the autobiographical narrative of Sayyid Henkish, a musician from a long family tradition of wedding performers in Cairo, as a lens through which to explore changing notions of masculinity in an Egyptian community over the course of a single lifetime.
Central to Henkish’s story is his own conception of manhood, which is closely tied to the notion of ibn al-balad, the ‘authentically Egyptian’ lower-middle class male, with all its associated values of nobility, integrity, and toughness. How to embody these communal ideals while providing for his family in the face of economic hardship and the perceived moral ambiguities associated with his work in the entertainment trade are key themes in his narrative.
Van Nieuwkerk situates his account within a growing body of literature on gender that sees masculinity as a lived experience that is constructed and embodied in specific social and historical contexts. In doing so, she shows that the challenges faced by Henkish are not limited to the world of entertainment and that his story offers profound insights into socioeconomic and political changes taking place in Egypt at large and the ways in which these transformations impact and unsettle received notions of masculinity.
“An extraordinary work of meticulous scholarship.”―Midwest Book Review
The history of Cairo’s football fans is one of the most poignant narratives of the 25 January 2011 Egyptian uprising. The Ultras Al-Ahly and the Ultras White Knights fans, belonging to the two main teams, Al-Ahly F.C. and Zamalek F.C respectively, became embroiled in the street protests that brought down the Mubarak regime. In the violent turmoil since, the Ultras have been locked in a bitter conflict with the Egyptian security state. Tracing these social movements to explore their role in the uprising and the political dimension of soccer in Egypt, Ronnie Close provides a vivid, intimate sense of the Ultras’ unique subculture.
Cairo’s Ultras: Resistance and Revolution in Egypt’s Football Culture explores how football communities offer ways of belonging and instill meaning in everyday life. Close asks us to rethink the labels ‘fans’ or ‘hooligans’ and what such terms might really mean. He argues that the role of the body is essential to understanding the cultural practices of the Cairo Ultras, and that the physicality of the stadium rituals and acerbic chants were key expressions that resonated with many Egyptians. Along the way, the book skewers media clichés and retraces revolutionary politics and social networks to consider the capacity of sport to emancipate through performances on the football terraces.
Ronnie Close in an interview with sports journalist Ken Early in Dublin, on his book Cairo’s Ultras: Resistance and Revolution in Egypt’s Football Culture (AUC Press, 2019). https://vimeo.com/385490688 (January 2020)
In this AUC Press podcast, Close explains how he initially became interested in Cairo’s Ultras, who these football fans are, the role they played in Egypt’s 2011 revolution, and the aesthetic practices and common identity instilled in their fan base. Click here to listen.
The 25 January 2011 uprising and the unprecedented dissent and discord to which it gave rise shattered the notion of homogeneity that had characterized state representations of Egypt and Egyptians since 1952. It allowed for the eruption of identities along multiple lines, including class, ideology, culture, and religion, long suppressed by state control. Concomitantly a profusion of women’s voices arose to further challenge the state-managed feminism that had sought to define and carefully circumscribe women’s social and civic roles in Egypt.
Women in Revolutionary Egypt takes the uprising as the point of departure for an exploration of how gender in post-Mubarak Egypt came to be rethought, reimagined, and contested. It examines key areas of tension between national and gender identities, including gender empowerment through art and literature, particularly graffiti and poetry, the disciplining of the body, and the politics of history and memory.
Shereen Abouelnaga argues that this new cartography of women’s struggle has to be read in a context that takes into consideration the micropolitics of everyday life as well as the larger processes that work to separate the personal from the political. She shows how a new generation of women is resisting, both discursively and visually, the notion of a fixed or ‘authentic’ notion of Egyptian womanhood in spite of prevailing social structures and in face of all gendered politics of imagined nation.
In 1957 the public sector in Egyptian cinema was established, followed shortly by the emergence of public-sector film production in 1960, only to end eleven years later, in 1971. Assailed with negativity since its demise, if not earlier, this state adventure in film production was dismissed as a complete failure, financially, administratively and, most importantly, artistically. Although some scholars have sporadically commented on the role played by this state institution, it has not been the object of serious academic research aimed at providing a balanced, nuanced general assessment of its overall impact. This issue of Cairo Papers hopes to address this gap in the literature on Egyptian cinema. After discussing the part played by the public sector in attempts to alleviate the financial crisis that threatened the film industry, this study investigates whether there was a real change in the general perception of the cinema, and the government’s attitude toward it, following the June 1967 Arab–Israeli war.
Along with football and religion, housing is a fundamental cornerstone of Egyptian life: it can make or break marriage proposals, invigorate or slow down the economy, and popularize or embarrass a ruler. Housing is political. Almost every Egyptian ruler over the last eighty years has directly associated himself with at least one large-scale housing project. It is also big business, with Egypt currently the world leader in per capita housing production, building at almost double China’s rate, and creating a housing surplus that counts in the millions of units.
Despite this, Egypt has been in the grip of a housing crisis for almost eight decades. From the 1940s onward, officials deployed a number of policies to create adequate housing for the country’s growing population. By the 1970s, housing production had outstripped population growth, but today half of Egypt’s one hundred million people cannot afford a decent home. Egypt’s Housing Crisis takes presidential speeches, parliamentary reports, legislation, and official statistics as the basis with which to investigate the tools that officials have used to ‘solve’ the housing crisis—rent control, social housing, and amnesties for informal self-building—as well as the inescapable reality of these policies’ outcomes. Yahia Shawkat argues that wars, mass displacement, and rural–urban migration played a part in creating the problem early on, but that neoliberal deregulation, crony capitalism and corruption, and neglectful planning have made things steadily worse ever since. In the final analysis he asks, is affordable housing for all really that hard to achieve?
Ursula Lindsey is a reporter, essayist and book reviewer who has lived and worked in North Africa and the Middle East since 2002. She has a long-standing interest in the built environment and urban development of Cairo. She has lived in Egypt and Morocco and reported for Newsweek, The New York Times and The Chronicle of Higher Education. Today she lives in Amman, Jordan, writes for The New York Review of Books and co-hosts a podcast on Arabic literature in translation, BULAQ.
None of the momentous challenges Arab universities face is unique either in kind or degree. Other societies exhibit some of the same pathologies—insufficient resources, high drop-out rates, feeble contributions to research and development, inappropriate skill formation for existing job markets, weak research incentive structures, weak institutional autonomy, and co-optation into the political order. But, it may be that the concentration of these pathologies and their depth is what sets the Arab world apart.
Missions Impossible seeks to explain the process of policymaking in higher education in the Arab world, a process that is shaped by the region’s politics of autocratic rule. Higher education in the Arab world is directly linked to crises in economic growth, social inequality and, as a result, regime survival. If unsuccessful, higher education could be the catalyst to regime collapse. If successful, it could be the catalyst to sustained growth and innovation—but that, too, could unleash forces that the region’s autocrats are unable to control. Leaders are risk-averse and therefore implement policies that tame the universities politically but in the process sap their capabilities for innovation and knowledge creation. The result is suboptimal and, argues John Waterbury in this thought-provoking study, unsustainable.
Skillfully integrating international debates on higher education with rich and empirically informed analysis of the governance and finance of higher education in the Arab world today, Missions Impossible explores and dissects the manifold dilemmas that lie at the heart of educational reform and examines possible paths forward.
El-Said Badawi’s seminal Mustawayat al-‘arabiya al-mu‘asira fi Misr (Levels of Contemporary Arabic in Egypt) was first published in Arabic in 1973. Its theory of interrelated language levels that are ever-changing along a sociolinguistic continuum inspired a generation of Arabists and Arabic-language educators to re-examine Arabic varieties from a wide range of perspectives, transforming the way scholars carried out research on language variation, lexicography, and teaching Arabic as a foreign language. Since that time, Arabic has witnessed major changes in the way its spoken and written forms are practiced, but informed, scholarly publications on the current reality of the linguistic landscape have been few and far between. This collective study, with contributions from renowned scholars of Arabic linguistics, draws on empirical data to bring together original new research on spoken and written language varieties in Egypt today.
Thematically, Revisiting Levels of Contemporary Arabic in Egypt explores three broad but interconnected areas: Arabic varieties in context, challenges to Badawi’s Levels model, and the pedagogical implications of varying levels in teaching Arabic as a foreign language. It not only discusses the current applicability of Badawi’s model to contexts such as contemporary Egyptian newspapers and Facebook, but looks at empirical data related to colloquial varieties in Egypt and elsewhere, the role of context in their current use, and the approaches to documenting and deriving colloquial lexicons. It also examines linguistic styles in different genres and contexts and for different audiences.
Between 1948 and 1957, a period that witnessed two wars between Egypt and Israel, 60,000 members of Egypt’s 75,000-strong Jewish population left the country, compelled by growing hostility to them because of their presumed links to Zionism, economic insecurity, and after 1956, overt expulsion. Decades later, during the 1980s and 1990s, the personal reminiscences of eight Egyptian Jewish women, presently residents of New York who had left Egypt, were meticulously collected by Nayra Atiya.
While Atiya’s sample of eight narrators represents only a tiny percentage of the Jews who left Egypt, their accounts tell us much about the middle- and upper-class Jews who migrated to the Americas and Europe, giving us a vivid sense of their lives in Egypt before their departure and the dynamic role they played in Egyptian society. They were the children or grandchildren of generations of Jews who migrated to Egypt from around or near the Mediterranean to escape economic hardship and persecution or, in one case, a family conflict.
With one exception, Atiya’s interlocutors resided in relatively upscale neighborhoods in Egypt near other Jewish families. They lived in elegant apartments, with servants, fine foods, memberships in elite clubs, and summers spent near Alexandria or in Europe. In Zikrayat, Atiya movingly captures the essence of these women’s characters and experiences, the fabric of their day-to-day lives, and the complex, many-layered mood of those times in Egypt. In doing so she brings to life the ties that bind all Egyptians, offering a glimpse into a now vanished world—and the heartbreak of exile and migration.
A vivid ethnography of Egyptian migrants to the Arab Gulf states, Migrant Dreams is about the imagination which migration thrives on, and the hopes and ambitions generated by the repeated experience of leaving and returning home.
What kind of dreams for a good or better life drives labor migrants? What does being a migrant worker do to one’s hopes and ambitions? How does the experience of migration to the Gulf, with its attendant economic and legal precarities, shape migrants’ particular dreams of a better life? What do those dreams—be they realistic and productive, or fantastic and unlikely—do to the social worlds of the people who pursue them, and to their families and communities back home upon their return?
Based on ten years of ethnographic fieldwork and conversations with Egyptian men from mostly low-income rural backgrounds who migrated as workers to the Gulf, returned home, and migrated again over a period of about a decade, this fine-grained study explores and engages with these questions and more, as the men reflect on their strivings and the dreams they hope to fulfill. Throughout the book, Samuli Schielke highlights the story of one man, Tawfiq, who is particularly gifted at analyzing his own situation and struggles, resulting in a richly nuanced account that will appeal not only to Middle East scholars, but to anyone interested in the lived lives of labor migrants and what their experiences ultimately mean to them.