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We Are All Egyptian

Today’s post is written by guest blogger Yasmin Moll. Yasmin, an AAA member, is the Anthropology News Contributing Editor for the Middle East Section (MES). Currently, she is conducting dissertation fieldwork in Cairo, Egypt. More of her images can be found on AN’s Flickr Photostream. Thank you Yasmin!

Tahrir Square, Feb 1, 2011. Image courtesy Yasmin Moll

There are tens of thousands of Egyptians in Tahrir today. And there are millions of Egyptians who are not.

If we believe some international media outlets and domestic opposition papers, these two groups make up two distinct camps: those for democracy and those for Mubarak. And if we believe the Egyptian government media, the dividing line is between trouble-making youths allied with “foreign agents” and law-abiding citizens.

From the vantage point of those of us in Cairo, however, the picture is much more complex, fluid and messy.  And simplifying it for the sake of a sexy story or a catchy headline risks marginalizing the many Egyptians from all classes and backgrounds whose political stances don’t fit neatly into one or the other of these categories.

Tahrir Square, Feb 5, 2011. Image courtesy Yasmin Moll

Take my friend Mansour. On January 28 I attended with him the protest downtown after Friday prayer. Marching peacefully along with hundreds of others up Kasr Al-Aini street, we were met with a volley of tear-gas fired by the central security police blocking access to Tahrir Square. Summoning up all the courage we could muster, we surged forward with the crowd chanting “the people want the demise of the regime” (al-shaab yureed isqaat al-nizaam). Eventually both the police tear-gas and our own fear got so bad that we took cover in a building along the street, hiding with dozens of others until the police had passed on so we could go home.

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