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Do Instagram And Flickr Shape the Art of the Revolution?

December 12, 2017

Frame ArtIs Instagram a significant factor in how Egyptian artists used street art to protest the revolution?

How about Flickr?

My sense, based on all the recent books and articles about street art in Cairo, is “no,” but I don’t have the data I need to support it.

I’m asking the question because I just read an article in Media, Culture & Society entitled “‘I’d Double Tap That!!’: street art, graffiti, and Instagram research” by Lachlan John MacDowall and Poppy de Souza. The authors explain that:

the production and consumption of forms of street art and graffiti are increasingly shaped by the architectures, protocols, and uses of Instagram

In other words, how one does street art is increasingly shaped by an awareness of how the people who see your art will share it based on its Instagrammability.

An article in Visual Culture by Axel 

Both of these articles fit in with the growing fascination of Western, and especially European media scholars with “mediatization,” this awareness that the practices of everyday life are increasingly being shaped by the integration of new media technologies into our lives. McDowell is at University of Melbourne, DeSouza is an Australian independent researcher, Philipps and Zerr are with Leibniz University Hannover, and Herder is at Radboud University Nijmegen.

I enjoyed both articles…


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Why Al-Jazeera America Never Gained Traction

November 28, 2017

Al Jazeera America TV“Can Al Jazeera English leverage its ‘Egypt moment’ into an American audience?”

That question was asked back in 2011 by William Youmans and Katie Brown in a 2011 article in Arab Media & Society.

The answer was no.

Al-Jazeera America, possibly the most ambitious attempt in history by a non-Western network to broadcast to US audiences, was shut down in April 2016.

It was a shame. I loved Al-Jazeera America (although, like many, I wished it had had more of an on-line presence).

I also love Al Jazeera–although not as much as I used to–and I am fascinated and sorry to find it at the center of the current Saudi-Qatar crisis. With the potential closing of Al Jazeera a reality, I was interested to see a new article about Al Jazeera America in the journal Global Media and Communication.

Entitled “Counter-hegemonic contra-flow and the Al Jazeera America fiasco: A social network analysis of Al Jazeera America’s Twitter users,” this research by Tal Samuel-Azran and Tsahi Hayat offers some interesting additional evidence as to why someone like me was likely to watch it, but most others weren’t.

Samuel-Azran and Hayat analyzed the Twitter following on Al Jazeera America’s social media. Their social network analysis revealed that 42 per cent of Al Jazeera America’s followers did not follow any other US news outlet. Most of the remaining 58 per cent followed stations the researchers identified as having a “liberal” stance.

The findings offer no surprises. They merely offer additional evidence that most mainstream US news consumers were reluctant to watch–or follow–Al Jazeera America because they were pre-disposed to find it biased and alien.

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Visual Anthropology Of The Egyptian Revolution (And Beyond)

October 12, 2017
Visual anthropology of the revolution

A special issue of the journal Visual Anthropology brings together seven scholars exploring visual aspects of political contestation in the Middle East, especially the Arab Spring.


The issue contains four articles that address Egypt:

  1. an introduction by editors Mark Westmoreland (Leiden University) and and Diana K. Allan (McGill),
  2. Westmoreland’s “Street Scenes: The Politics of Revolutionary Video in Egypt” 
  3. “’Film!’—The Arab Revolutions and the Filmmaker as Amanuensis” by the Belgian filmmaker Peter Snowden, and
  4. an account of the organization by Alisa Liebow (University of Sussex)

In addition, the collection includes an essay by Peter Limbrick about John Greyson’s film 14.3 Seconds which describes and explores the destruction of Iraqi film archives, “Thinking with X-rays: Investigating the Politics of Visibility through the Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamid’s Photography Collection” by Zeynep Devrim Gürsel, Diana K. Allan’s “Watching Photos in Shatila: Visualizing Politics in the 2011 March of Return” and “Touched from Below: On Drones, Screens and Navigation” by Anjali Nath.

Hopefully I will find time to review each of these articles separately. In the meantime, here are the abstracts:

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What Would A Muslim Brotherhood State Have Looked Like?

August 25, 2017

Morsi_SupportersIt’s one of the greatest controversies of the revolution: What would the state overseen by Egypt’s President Morsi have looked like if he had not been ousted in a popularly-supported military coup?

The Muslim Brothers claimed that they were committed to a secular state and civil government. Many Egyptians, perhaps the majority, feared that once they had established control, the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government would attempt to fulfill the original vision of the movement’s founder, Hassan al-Basri: to abolish the geographic borders of the country and impose its interpretation of the rules of Islam on Egypt, and – in due course – on the region, and the world as a whole.

In a new article entitled “The Egyptian Muslim Brothers’ ideal state model: a religious state – out; a civil state – in”, published in the journal Middle Eastern Studies, an argument is made that although the Muslim Brotherhood articulated an Islamic concept of a civil society, it was never fully committed to that vision.

Author Limon Lavie (of The Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace, at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem) argues that the concept of civil state was useful to the Brotherhood in its efforts to secure a strong place in the Egyptian public sphere, but widespread differences of commitment to that vision within the movement may have been one of the things that led to its political ouster.

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Bloodshed, Liminality & The Ends Of Egypt’s Revolution

August 23, 2017

The Ends of RevolutionThe word “ends” has at least two significant meanings.

We can speak of “ends” as goals, aspirations or outcomes. For example, we might ask, “What are the ends of the revolution? Full democracy or just regime change?”

But we can also speak of ends as conclusions, completions or abrupt terminations: “This is the end of the revolution.”

These two meanings are often in tension with one another–and they certainly are in the title of the recently released special issue of Middle East Critique entitled “The Ends of Revolution in the Arab Middle East,” edited by Eric Hooglund. The issue includes two rich and provocative articles on Egypt by two leading anthropologists.

The issue opens with an essay entitled “The Ends of Revolution: Rethinking Ideology and Time in the Arab Uprisings” by Sune Haugbolle of Roskilde University and Andreas Bandak of the University of Copenhagen. They draw a contrast between the promise of Tahrir Square and the current realities of “a ruined Syria, a Yemen being bombed, a Libya in disintegration, and an Egypt on the slide to state-centric fascism.”

They write:

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Are The Media Using The Wrong Yardstick To Measure The Revolution?

June 6, 2017

Is WinterThe concept of “revolution” used by Western media to report on the so-called “Arab Spring” (itself a term coined by the Western media) is rooted in understandings of the revolutionary events that took place in Europe and her colonies in the eighteenth and nineteenth century.

The concept of revolution used in global media discourses is, as a result of its origin, loaded with meanings informed by the Western understanding of modernity and progress.

The resulting Eurocentrism led to an inability by most journalists and their editors to comprehend the regional, cultural, and political peculiarities of the Arab Spring.

Those are the conclusions of a media frame analysis by Petra Cafnik Uludağ, professor of Political Science at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey.

In her paper “ critically examines how the global media uses the concept of revolution when reporting about the Arab Spring. The paper appears in the most recent edition of the journal Critical Studies in Media Communication.

Media framing analysis involves “discovering the principles of selection, emphasis and presentation composed of little tacit theories about what exists, what happens, and what matters” (Gitlin 1980). Frames are not “bias” in the popular sense of the term; they are the inevitable product of the generating and articulating news stories out of the actions and activities of life.

A media frame analysis of stories about the Arab revolts in The Guardian and The New York Times between 2011 and 2013 reveals the use of six common attributes derived from outdated Eurocentric notions of revolution, Uludağ claims. These six attributes are:

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“Revolutionary Egypt” Book Gets a Facebook Page

February 16, 2017

revegyptfacebookIts a book about the “Facebook revolution”, right? So it is only appropriate it finally gets its own Facebook page–concurrent with its coming out in paperback and as an e-book.

The book is Revolutionary Egypt: Connecting Domestic and International Struggles edited by Reem Abou-El-Fadl. Derived from a conference at Oxford University, it has chapters by Charles Tripp, Marie Duboc, Nicola Pratt, Mark Allen Peterson, Walter Armbrust, Alexander Kazamias, Raymond Hinnebusch, Adam Hanieh, Corinna Mullin, Kerem Öktem, Miriyam Aouragh, Anthony Alessandrini and Reem Abou-El-Fadl

Dust jacket:

In 2011 the world watched as Egyptians rose up against a dictator. Observers marveled at this sudden rupture, and honed in on the heroes of Tahrir Square. Revolutionary Egypt analyzes this tumultuous period from multiple perspectives, bringing together experts on the Middle East from disciplines as diverse as political economy, comparative politics and social anthropology.

Drawing on primary research conducted in Egypt and across the world, this book analyzes the foundations and future of Egypt’s revolution. Considering the revolution as a process, it looks back over decades of popular resistance to state practices and predicts the waves still to come. It also confidently places Egypt’s revolutionary process in its regional and international contexts, considering popular contestation of foreign policy trends as well as the reactions of external actors. It draws connections between Egyptians’ struggles against domestic despotism and their reactions to regional and international processes such as economic liberalization, Euro-American interventionism and similar struggles further afield.

Revolutionary Egypt is an essential resource for scholars and students of social movements and revolution, comparative politics, and Middle East politics, in particular Middle East foreign policy and international relations.

Egypt as “Securocratic” State

January 17, 2017

securocratic-stateThere’s a new paper from Maha Abdelrahman of the University of Cambridge entitled “Policing neoliberalism in Egypt: the continuing rise of the ‘securocratic’ state.”

Abdelrahman joins Paul Amar and others in arguing that continuation of the global neoliberal order is tied to demands for security, and that ruling elites must therefore inevitably be tied to the police apparatus in complex ways.



The as-Sisi regime, like the Mubarak regime, is a “securocratic” state, a state that uses the promise of security as a justification for its rule, and for its surveillance and strict control over multiple domains of life.

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What Did Hosni Mubarak Mean By “Democracy”

November 30, 2016

neoliberalismThat democracy means different things to different people is a truism so obvious as to be banal. But the intercultural problem that raises remains perpetually interesting: what do people in different times and places mean when they say “democracy”?

An article in the most recent edition of the International Journal of Comparative Sociology looks at this question from the viewpoint of  speakers who use the term a lot: autocratic leaders in North Africa, including Hosni Mubarak. The author, Brandon Gordon, of the University of Albany in the US, analyzes 1935 speeches given between 2000 and 2010 by heads of state from five North African countries: King Mohammed VI of Morocco, President ʿAbdulʿaziz Butefliqa of Algeria, President Zin al-ʿAbedin Ben ʿAli of Tunisia, Colonel Muʿammar al-Qadhafi of Libya, and President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.

Gordon’s data set includes 425 public speeches by Hosni Mubarak. Of these 171 (or 40%) mention “democracy.” There are 304 uses of the term in these 171 speeches.

Gordon draws on Erving Goffman’s concepts of frames, or “schemata of interpretation” that enable people to “locate, perceive, identify, and label” objects and experiences (1974: 21). Gordon likes the idea of framing because it focuses on the agency of the speaking actors, “the intentional ways that actors attempt to construct their self-presentations to gain the support of prospective constituents and actual or prospective resource providers.”

Autocrats, in other words, “need not be committed to a given cultural object in order to appropriate it.”

But Gordon wants to move beyond the obvious idea that autocrats use the language of democracy because it is culturally resonant with international institutions, powerful global actors, and local populations. He argues that these autocrats also sometimes attempt to challenge the  global cultural discourses they are appropriating by articulating frames that explicitly contradict them.

That is, they “discursively identify themselves with democracy while simultaneously avoiding substantive democratization.”

So what vision of democracy is revealed in Mubarak’s speeches?

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Cleaning Up Cairo

November 26, 2016

a-civilized-revolutionOne of the things I teach my students about power in my Peoples of the World class at Miami University is that power rests in the ways that we discipline ourselves to some moral order. We make power structures real by speaking and acting as if they were real; we bring them into existence day-by-day, moment-by-moment through the ways we live our live.

People who seek power can never rely on force alone; they must appeal to cultural principles of good and evil, right and wrong, inclusion and exclusion,  and order and disorder, to justify their actions and persuade citizens to discipline themselves to the political order they seek to create. Often these are articulated through images of embodied experiences: family life, health and illness, sports, earning a living and so forth.

This lesson is beautifully illustrated in a new article in American Ethnologist by my old friend Jessica Winegar. Jessica is the Harold H. and Virginia Anderson Associate Professor of Anthropology and Middle East and North African Studies at Northwestern University.

Entitled “A civilized revolution: Aesthetics and political action in Egypt,” Jessica focuses on what she calls aesthetic ordering, “collective action seeking to beautify public space and regulate behavior in it” which were  “cultivated and extensively performed during the 18-day protest, and … came to dominate public action in the immediate aftermath of its success.”

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