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Best Posts of 2011

January 3, 2012

This is a “word cloud” generated from the text of this blog on Jan. 1st. It was created by The cloud give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the blog, making visual art out of text.

The beginning of a new calendar year is a time of reflection and house cleaning, and I’ve been doing both with regard to this blog. I already posted the statistics on the blog; this post is on its more qualitative successes. It is a list of the best posts from each month of the past calendar year. This post is labeled “best” rather than “top” posts because while I was guided by the number of views posts got, I wanted to emphasize which ones I thought were significant.


I created the blog site with a set of web pages answering two questions I found myself addressing in classes and public talks over and over again as the events in Egypt unfolded: Why Revolution? and Why Now?


My first real effort to bring an anthropological perspective to the uprisings resulted in an essay entitled Antistructure in Tahrir Square, which employs Victor Turner’s notions of communitas and antistructure.


The question of whether this was a “social media revolution,” (and if so, what that even means) can only be answered by empirical cases. My very popular entry on Egypt’s Piggipedia: Transparency as Resistance was an effort in this direction.


The absence of police oppression brought the salafis out into the public sphere in unprecedented ways. My very frequently viewed post Just How Significant are the Salafis in Egypt? reflected my own surprise, as well as my efforts to find a point of observation between the alarmism of most Western accounts and the derision of many early Egyptian intellectual reactions to those Western news reports. It was the first of many posts on salafists. Several of these are among my most frequently viewed posts.


In May I posted a link to my short article Egypt’s Media Ecology in a Time of Revolution, which has just come out in the latest issue of the on-line journal Arab Media and Society, published by the Al-Adham Center for Journalism Teaching and Research at the American University in Cairo.


My most popular post in June was Coca-Cola for the New Egypt, which reflects on how Pepsi and Coke seek to keep their marketing relevant by integrating their products into the “spirit” of the revolution in new ads. It followed a post that commented on the disastrous effort by Vodafone’s ad agency to tie one of its earlier ads to the revolution.


My most significant and frequently viewed post in July didn’t even express my own ideas–it summarized the Five Characteristics of Youth Movements described in a report in Arabic by Dina Shehata.


I first wrote about Basem Youssef’s wildly popular YouTube videos in May;  this follow-post describing how Basem Youssef Leaps From Social Media to Television became my third most viewed post ever, with more than 440 views by Jan.1, 2012.


The single most widely viewed post of the year was Sex, Politics and Social Drama in the New Egypt. It’s a longish essay using Victor Turner’s concept of social drama to analyze the scandal of Amr Hamzawy’s public romance with the actress Besma.


In October I gave a talk at the University of Kentucky entitled Egyptian Youth in Urban and Virtual Spaces. I didn’t actually post the talk and accompanying slides until November, but it was still an October event as far as I’m concerned.


A couple of weeks before the elections I published A Partial Guide to Egyptian Political Parties, the result of efforts by my International Studies student Sarah Sterner, and an accompanying post Who’s Who in the Egyptian Political Parties (A Partial List) by another student, Mikaela Ashley. Both saw a flurry of activity in the days leading up to the elections, and I got thank you comments and e-mails from students, colleagues and journalists.


In December I added three significant additions to the Resources page: An alphabetical listing of Who’s Who in contemporary Egypt, an alphabetical listing of What’s What, and a Timeline of the year’s events. These were primarily the work of three of my International Studies students, Mikaela Ashley, Sarah Sterner and Sarah Fields, respectively, although I edited them and am adding entries as we go.

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