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Connected in Cairo: New Preface on the Uprisings

March 7, 2011

The title page of the book.

The fine folks at Indiana University Press (especially my editor Rebecca Tolen and my production manager Marvin Keenan) have graciously allowed me to write a new preface for the book. I just finished proofing the galleys.

While I welcomed the opportunity to reflect on current issues in the light of a book completed almost a year before the uprisings began, it was no easy task, since it is not clear what the ultimate outcome of this revolution will be, or even what will have happened over the next few months before readers hold the book in their hands.

 

Here’s a teaser:

 

I wish I could say that the book you are holding was prescient, that it anticipates the uprising, which occurred as the book was about to go to press. It does not. I wish I could say that this book clearly points to the directions the revolution might go. It does not. It does, however, offer a description of Egyptian identity on the cusp of the revolution.

And here’s another:

In Chapter Four, I describe a conversation with Hassan, a young man who speaks about the highly successful Egyptian film Nasser 56. The film created in him a nostalgia for an era he never experienced, one in which, he said, “Everyone was willing to make sacrifices, not like today.” Even as he planned to leave Egypt to study and perhaps pursue a career abroad, he wished his homeland could be one worth living in, one in which citizens were willing to work together for the common good. Others I describe sought the same thing in an Islamic activism that is about changing and improving oneself and one’s community, while still others turned to social media in search of an Egyptian nationalism that might transcend presidents and parties and link people together into a new public sphere. Part of the power of Tahrir Square was that it brought all these elements together in a single place and time.

(It’s a short preface so that’s all I can share here without violating copyright!)

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