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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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RACE exhibit’s perfect timing

Timing of our RACE: Are We So Different? exhibit could not have worked out better as it opens tomorrow at Discovery Place in Charlotte. Simultaneous to the exhibit’s opening weekend, the American Renaissance’s conference was scheduled to take place at a local hotel. Due to the nature of this white nationalist conference, hosted by the New Century Foundation, the hotel cancelled the conference contract citing concern for guest safety. Local groups, such as the Southern Anti-Racism Network, were planning protests against the conference.

As you may imagine, the organization is quite upset with the lack of support and has turned to the city’s mayor pro tem, an African-American, for support. The mayor has also cited concern for public safety as reason to not pressure its businesses to host the conference. The Foundation’s leader, Jared Taylor, sought a new meeting location but also a public apology from the City of Charlotte for its violation of the organization’s First Amendment rights to free speech. Taylor received neither and the conference has been cancelled.

Mary Curtis of Politics Daily, an AOL original news source, writes:

Probably not on the agenda of Taylor, who said he believes the races have evolved independently, is the newest exhibit set to open this weekend at Charlotte’s hands-on science museum, Discovery Place. In an accident of timing that could not be more perfect, “Race: Are We So Different?” promises visitors will discover that human beings are more alike than any other living species and no one gene or set of genes can support the idea of race.

“We all can see that people look different, but modern science and anthropology may alter how we understand and experience race,” said John Mackay, president and CEO of Discovery Place. “Science has demonstrated that humans cannot be divided into ‘races’ based on physical attributes or genes. It’s about the effects of geography and where people live, not categories.”

We hope that the American Renaissance conference attendees and Taylor drop in on the RACE: Are We So Different? exhibit at Discovery Place while they are in Charlotte. Perhaps they might learn a thing or two about the science of race.

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