The Amāra on the Square

Connective Agency and the Aesthetics of the Egyptian Revolution

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Author:
Ayman El-Desouky University of London ad48@soas.ac.uk

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Abstract

During and immediately after the Egyptian revolution of 2011, the creative impulse that accompanied social and political demands shifted toward a collective sense of regained agency, or “connective agency.” The spontaneous acts of mobilization, artworks from found objects, street performances, the reshaping of slogans and chants into sustained musical composition—these all tap into cultural memory, offering radical and socially cementing modes of communication. The agency of this artistic expression and collective action lies in the production of amāra forms: the specifically Egyptian cultural practice of producing signs and narrative tokens of shared identity and fate, in this case in a socially transformed public sphere. My reflections here move from the political to the aesthetic, from the return of the people through collective and solidaristic action to the forms of resonance and of connective agency that such actions have evinced.

Contributor Notes

Ayman El-Desouky is a Senior Lecturer in Modern Arabic and Comparative Literature and Founding Chair of the Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies (CCLPS, 2009 2012) at SOAS, University of London. Recent relevant publications include The Intellectual and the People in Egyptian Literature and Culture: Amāra and the 2011 Revolution (2014) and “Heterologies of Revolutionary Action: On Historical Consciousness and the Sacred in Mahfouz’s Children of the Alley” (Journal of Postcolonial Writing, 2011). He is currently preparing a book-length study on Figuring the Sacred in the Modern Arabic Novel for Edinburgh University Press.

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The Multidisciplinary Journal of Social Protest

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