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Can Laughter Change Egypt?

August 27, 2012

Egyptians have always enjoyed a good joke

My recent op-ed for the Common Ground News Service is now out.

Entitle “Can Laughter Change Egypt” it argues that while telling political jokes is as old as Egypt itself,

during last year’s Egyptian revolution, satire directed at the powerful went public, offering Egyptians a way to resist power creatively and non-violently. Public laughter helped break the grip of fear the regime had relied on for so long, and continues to affect Egypt’s politics today.

Of course I mention Bassem Youssef’s El Bernameg, and El Koshary Today, and Ezba Abu Gamal. I also quote my former colleague Hebatallah Salem, who was at the Oxford conference on the revolution with me. She is compiling a history of the Egyptian revolution through its jokes.

It’s already been picked up by a couple of sites, including Al-Arabiya and The Daily Star (Lebanon).

It was an interesting experience because the essay went through so many revisions (4 or 5) as the erstwhile editors sought to make it

  1. more journalistic and less academic. It seems 15 years as a professor have eroded some of my journalistic writing skills.
  2. positive. A positive news slant is what CGNews is known for, and I guess I’m a little too…um…gloomy? (I’d say cautious, but my wife thinks I’m just overly pessimistic…)

Coolest of all, there’s an Arabic version as well, entitledهل تستطيع الفكاهة تغيير مصر؟

CGNews also released it in Hebrew, French, Indonesian and Urdu versions! Emarrakech has published it in French.

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