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Now the Other Middle Easternists Have To Catch Up With the Anthropologists

March 16, 2011

What will scholars of the Middle East write and teach now that Arabs have asserted themselves against authoritative regimes?

“Scholars who work on the Middle East have been furiously updating their syllabi and revising their book proposals in the past month and a half, says Ursula Lindsey in an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education because “[t]he events in Tunisia, Egypt, and now Libya have upended conventional academic wisdom about the region.”

Specifically, she says,the obsession most Middle Easternists have with state authoritarianism, and Islamist politics has led to a tendency to ignore many of the social, political and economic issues that suddenly manifest themselves in the pro-democracy uprisings.

She writes: “Other topics of obvious interest to Egypt specialists include military-civilian relations; the role of new media; youth culture; transitional political periods; and the extent to which Arab countries are connected to and influenced by one another.”

The interesting thing is, these are issues anthropologists have already been looking at.  Indeed, one could argue that many of these topics are at the center of what we do. If political scientists and economists and sociologists have really been ignoring these issues, they could do worse than read some of the anthropology of Egypt over the last decade.

(I say if because while I don’t doubt Ms. Lindsay is mostly right, there are multiple exceptions, political scientists and sociologists whose work has focused on these elements–Mona Abaza, Asef Bayat, Joel Beinin and Timothy Mitchell, to name a few).

So as a public service, here’s a few books they might consider putting on their revised syllabi:

  1. Abdalla, Mustafa. 2007. Beach Politics: Gender and Sexuality in Dahab. American University in Cairo Press.
  2. Abu-Lughod, Lila. 2005. Dramas of Nationhood: The Politics of Television in Egypt. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.
  3. Armbrust. Walter. 2000. Mass Culture and Modernism in Egypt. Cambridge University Press.
  4. Barsoum, Ghada. 2003. Employment Crisis of Female Graduates in Egypt: An Ethnographic Account, American University in Cairo Press.
  5. Cole, Donald and Soraya Altorki. 1998. Bedouin, Settlers, and Holiday-Makers: Egypt’s Changing Northwest Coast. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press.
  6. El-Aswad, El-Sayed  2002.  Religion and Folk Cosmology: Scenarios of the Visible and Invisible in Rural Egypt.  Westport, CT: Praeger.
  7. El Kholy, Heba Aziz. 2003. Defiance and Compliance: Negotiating Gender in Low-Income Cairo. Berghahn Books.
  8. Ghannam, Farha. 2002. Remaking the Modern: Space, Relocation and the Politics of Identity in a Global Cairo. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  9. Haeri, Niloofar. 2003. Sacred Language, Ordinary People: Dilemmas of Culture and Politics in Egypt. Palgrave MacMillan.
  10. Hafez, Sherine. 2003. The Terms of Empowerment: Islamic Women Activists in Egypt. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press.
  11. Hirschkind, Charles. 2006. The Ethical Soundscape: Cassette Sermons and Islamic Counterpublics. New York: Columbia University Press.
  12. Hopkins, Nicholas S. 2003. The New Arab Family. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press.
  13. Mostafa, Dalia A. 2008. Roses in Salty Soil: Women and Depression in Egypt Today. American University in Cairo Press.
  14. Peterson, Mark Allen. 2011. Connected in Cairo: Growing Up Cosmopolitan in the Modern Middle East. Indiana University Press.
  15. Singerman, Diane.  1995.  Avenues of Participation: Family, Politics and Networks in Urban Quarters of Cairo.  Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  16. Starrett, Gregory.  1998.  Putting Islam to Work: Education, Politics and Religious Transformation in Egypt.  Berkeley: University of California Press.
  17. Winegar, Jessica. 2006. Creative Reckonings: The Politics of Art and Culture in Contemporary Egypt. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
  18. Wynn, L.L. 2009. Pyramids and Nightclubs: A Travel Ethnography of Arab and Western Imaginations of Egypt, from King Tut and a Colony of Atlantis to Rumors of Sex Orgies, a Marauding Prince, and Blonde Belly Dancers. University of Texas Press.

And this is just for Egypt!

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