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Colonial Visions

Egyptian Antiquities and Contested Histories in the Cairo Museum

Christina Riggs

During the Egyptian revolution in January 2011, the antiquities museum in Tahrir Square became the focus of press attention amid claims of looting and theft, leading Western organizations and media outlets to call for the protection of Egypt’s ‘global cultural heritage’. What passed without remark, however, was the colonial history of the Cairo museum and its collections, which has shaped their postcolonial trajectory. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Cairo museum was a pivotal site for demonstrating control of Egypt on the world stage through its antiquities. More than a century later, these colonial visions of ancient Egypt, and its place in museums, continue to exert their legacy, not only in the challenges faced by the Egyptian Antiquities Museum at a crucial stage of redevelopment, but also in terms of museological practice in the West.

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‘Abd al-Raḥīm Kamāl's Dahsha

An Upper Egyptian Lear

Noha Mohamad Mohamad Ibraheem

This article investigates the pivotal cultural and socio-political issues affecting Egyptian society that ‘Abd al-Raḥīm Kamāl, a young Egyptian scriptwriter, represents in his television series Dahsha (Perplexity, 2014). This Ṣaʿīdī (Upper Egyptian) adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear raises issues including widespread and grinding poverty, the marginalization of women, the stigma attached to illegitimate children, and the continuing dependence upon patriarchal leadership, with Egypt’s 2011 revolution hovering in the background. Kamāl’s divergences from Shakespeare’s play in terms of characterization and plot create a different, culturally oriented interpretation of Lear. The article also examines the effects of transposing Lear from the stage into a different medium – the television screen. Finally, it distinguishes between the two literary concepts of ‘adaptation’ and ‘proximization’ by analysing how Egyptian audiences and critics responded to the series.

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Egyptian Football Ultras and the January 25th Revolution

Anti-corporate, Anti-militarist and Martyrdom Masculinities

Manal Hamzeh and Heather Sykes

This article examines the masculinities of Ultras football fans during and after the January 25th Egyptian revolution, within the interlocking systems of power of neoliberalism, militarism and Islamism. The Ultras' anti-corporate masculinities were strengthened through protests against satellite TV and the Egyptian Football Association, while they also developed anti-militarist masculinities as they protested business elites, Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and Central Security Forces. The Ultras developed martyrdom masculinities due to their shock over the Port Said stadium massacre and subsequent retribution protests. The Ultras may be reiterating hegemonic masculinities operating within the same patriarchal logic of the three regimes. Their grief and shock may be limiting their self-reflexivity and capacity to build coalitions.

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Blogging the Resistance

Testimony and Solidarity in Egyptian Women's Blogs

Sophia Brown

Much has been written about the role the internet played during the Arab uprisings of 2011, with particular attention paid to social media, whether Facebook, Twitter or blogging, and the extent to which it contributed to organizing the mass protests. Another recurring theme of the analysis of the uprisings was the role played by women, with Western media in particular emphasizing their contributions and debating whether this marked a pronounced increase in women’s agency. My article seeks to respond to these issues through an analysis of two Egyptian women’s blogs. Instead of contributing to the well-known debate about the internet’s capabilities for facilitating action, I examine how blogs observe resistance, exploring this through notions of digital testimony and autobiography. I then consider the issue of solidarity and whether this is gendered, which is an important issue to consider in light of the focus placed on women’s roles during the protests. Ultimately I aim to demonstrate that these Egyptian women’s blogs offer us new and productive ways of thinking about the role the internet played during the Arab uprisings and the autobiographical act, leading us to acknowledge the complexities of both solidarity and articulations of selfhood.

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Hazem Azmy

This article reflects critically on Shakespeare’s presence in the Egyptian cultural and national imaginaries between the country’s celebration of two Shakespeare quadricentennials. The 400th anniversary of his birth in 1964 coincided with the euphoric reimagining of Egypt as a decolonizing nationalist utopia, and also with the launch of the highly emblematic al- Masraḥ magazine; that of the Bard’s death in 2016 has occurred as the exhausted ‘post-revolutionary’ nation navigates a welter of blind spots and uncertainties on all levels. Culled from the wider public sphere, mainstream stage practice and my classroom experiences as an instructor of drama and theatre in contemporary Egypt, the article’s three snapshots exhibit compelling evidence of cultural hegemony, entrenched gerontocracy and both the subtle and not so subtle continuing subjugation of feminized voices.

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Being Baha'i in Contemporary Egypt

An Ethnographic Analysis of Everyday Challenges

Daniele Cantini

Following the 2003 reform and the Supreme Court ruling of 16 December 2006, Baha'is of Egypt find it increasingly difficult to have their citizenship rights recognised. This article draws on personal observation and analysis carried out in the context of broader research on Egyptian citizenship. I will introduce the condition of Baha'is in this country, from a historical and legal perspective, before starting an overall analysis of what being an oppressed minority means, in concrete terms, in the practice of everyday living. The article will then delineate how the ambiguities of state policies towards Baha'is are reflected in their daily lives.

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Italy in the Middle East and the Mediterranean

Evolving Relations with Egypt and Libya

Elisabetta Brighi and Marta Musso

The Mediterranean and the Middle East have long constituted an important “circle” in Italy’s foreign policy, with Egypt and Libya playing a particularly important role. During 2016, two sources of tension emerged in Italy’s relations with these countries. The first reflects a wider European situation. Like the rest of the EU, Italy has followed strategic interests—on migration, energy, and security—that sometimes conflict with the promotion of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law, which the EU claims to promote in its external relations. The Regeni affair, involving a murdered Italian graduate student, exemplified this tension. The second source results from the role of corporate interests in Italy, especially those of oil and energy companies, in relation to the country’s “national interests.” Italian foreign policy toward both Libya and Egypt seems to have been driven by a combination of somewhat overlapping but also divergent national and corporate interests.

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Reforming universities in the Middle East

Trends and contestations from Egypt and Jordan

Daniele Cantini

This article addresses the core-periphery nexus by looking at some of the reform packages proposed in the 2000s in these two pivotal countries in the Middle East, Egypt and Jordan, as well as the resistances they generated. These reform packages include internationalisation and privatisation policies, as well as World Bank–sponsored programmes intended to enhance the higher education sector. These programmes are marked by a high degree of isomorphism with global trends: they belong to an unquestioned centre, with peripheries as receiving points of policies elaborated elsewhere. In this article, I examine some of the resistances they were met with in Egypt and Jordan and show how their translations were shaped by the logics of the local contexts so that they were rarely implemented. Looking at post–Arab Spring developments, the article reflects on the continuity of reform packages amidst political turmoil, and the ways in which these reforms are altering or reinforcing processes of peripheralisation.

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The Amāra on the Square

Connective Agency and the Aesthetics of the Egyptian Revolution

Ayman El-Desouky

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 ama¯ ra 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.

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Khul‘ Divorce in Egypt

How Family Courts Are Providing a ‘Dialogue’ between Husband and Wife

Nadia Sonneveld

In the year 2000, Egyptian women were given the right to unilateral divorce through a procedure called khul'. Khul' became the source of much controversy in Egyptian society, and most judges interviewed by the author expressed a negative viewpoint when asked about it. Nevertheless, the introduction of the Family Court system in 2004, with the explicit aim of solving marital disputes through mediation and communication, has made possible a 'dialogue' between husband and wife in a khul' procedure. This applies even in situations where mediators and judges profess an unfavourable opinion of women who file for khul' divorce.