Though still ubiquitous in English-language scholarship and media, the term 'Arab Spring' is heavily contested in the Middle East. The breadth and depth of these contestations is no more apparent than in the explosion of popular cultural products and social media commentary in the largest and most populous Arab country, Egypt. From pop music to graffiti, these sources have played a vital role in articulating political meaning 'from below' in a vastly expanded public sphere. Yet there has been surprisingly little sustained analysis of how Egyptians have narrated their own histories of the 25 January Revolution. This project will put 'the people' back at the centre of scholarly understanding of Egypt's tumultuous transition amidst official attempts to script a history-still-in-the-making and erase alternative narratives of events unfolding since 2011.
The project critically engages with a wide range of Egyptian popular cultural texts and deploys a multidisciplinary approach, asking:
How has Egyptian popular culture narrated unfolding events after 25 January 2011 and how has the meaning of the 25 January uprising changed over time?
How has popular culture interacted with elite political discourses? To what extent have elites appropriated and/or attempted to censor or police pop culture narratives?
How have different narratives of the 25 January Revolution and its aftermath constructed the nation, national identity and ‘the Egyptian people’?
To what degree have different narratives subverted or re-signified official Egyptian narratives in order to redefine citizenship, the polity and geopolitical imaginaries?
In addition to academic publications, a major output of this project will be a digital archive of popular culture since 2011, featuring examples of popular culture and interviews with artists, performers, writers, directors and other creative figures.