Orientalizing the Egyptian Uprising, in Jaddaliya

Posted on July 1, 2011

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I missed this great essay the first time it was published in April, but its definitely worth reading:

[…]In the case of Egypt, the recent uprising is constructed as a youth, non-violent revolution in which social media (especially facebook and twitter) are champions. The underlying message here is that it these “middle-class” educated youth (read: modern) are not “terrorists,” they hold the same values as “us” (the democratic West), and finally use the same tools (facebook and twitter) that “we” invented and use in our daily-lives. They are just like “us” and hence they deserve celebration. These constructions are clear from a quick look the CNN, Time, Vanity Fair and others representations of the so-called leaders or icons of this revolution. They are all middle (upper) class Egyptians under the age of thirty. Most of them have one or more connection to the West, either by virtue of education (Time’s cover feature of seven “youth,” included three students from the American University in Cairo), work (e.g. Wael Ghoneim, sales manager at Google), or training. According to the BBC, Dr Gene Sharp –the author of “Non-Violent Revolution Rulebook” is “the man now credited with the strategy behind the toppling of the Egyptian government” through activists “trained in Sharp’s work.” This same profile of young people similarly monopolized television talk-shows in Egypt. And while many of these individuals did take part in the uprising –in different capacities – their status icons of the “revolution” in when the majority of the Egyptian population and those who participated in the uprising are of the subaltern classes is both disturbing and telling. This majority of people who have never heard of Dr. Sharp or Freedom House, never studied at AUC, or worked for Google. More profoundly, they are antagonistic about “Western” influence and presence in Egypt. Thus the class composition of dissent has been cloaked by a new imaginary homogenous construct called “youth.” In this construct, the media and academic analysts lump together the contradictory and often conflictual interests of ‘yuppies’ (young, urban, professionals of the aforementioned connections and backgrounds) with those of the unemployed, who live under the poverty line in rural areas and slum-areas. Under this banner of “youth” the “yuppies” and upper middle-class young people are portrayed as the quintessential representative of this uprising.[…]

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