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Are the Revolutions Reclaiming a “Lost Arab Dignity”?

July 15, 2011

Protest in Tahrir, July 8th. Photo by Malak Rouchdy.


Are the revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere part of an intergenerational reclaiming of pride and self-respect across the broader Arab world?

That’s the claim of Azza Kazam of the UN Population Fund in an article in Anthropology News:

It is important to be aware that the revolution has already resulted in the single most important contemporary change in Arab consciousness: retrieving a sense of dignity.

Kazam argues that with the end of French and British colonial rule, Arab Nationalism arose as an idea that structured political and social narratives. But when the Arab armies were decimated in just a few days by Israeli forces during the 1967 war, it led to “humiliation and Arab emasculation.”

I’m not sure what to make of this kind of thing. On the one hand, I am mistrustful of studies of large-scale “national cultures” much less transnational regional “cultures” encompassing hundreds of millions of people.

On the other hand, there is certainly a level at which this assertion is true, and it dovetails rather nicely with Selim Shahine’s account of intergenerational cultural experiences.


Kazam, Azza. 2011. “Reclaiming Dignity: Arab Revolutions of 2011.” Anthropology News 9: 19

Shahine, Selim H. 2011. Youth and the Revolution in Egypt. Anthropology Today 27(2): 1-3.

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