Understanding Egypt

Political protests in Egypt are ongoing at the time of this writing, mainly in Cairo, Alexandria and some other cities. Who knows what will unfold in the near future? What do cultural anthropologists offer to inform our understanding of this new social movement?

Mubarak and Regime Out by Michael Soron/Flickr.
Mubarak and Regime Out by Michael Soron/Flickr.
In order to address these issues, I turned first to my favorite electronic database available through my university library, Anthropology Plus.

I used the single search term “Egypt,” and I chose the publication dates of 2000-2010. Nearly 400 articles popped up. In scanning through them, I found that only 10 percent were related to contemporary social life. The other 90 percent of the references are dominated by archaeology with a sprinkling of biological anthropology as well as some non-anthro sources.

Clearly, you will have a better chance of finding out about early cat domestication, prehistoric ships, vessel residue analysis and even infant weaning during Roman times than you will have of learning about the social dimensions of today’s street protests.

Nonetheless, the 10 percent does offer some excellent studies. I augmented the Anthropology Plus journal references with a quick search in my university library for relevant book titles. I widened the scope to allow in several non-anthro sources because they sounded important. So, here you have a very quickly prepared reading list of mainly anthro sources along with other relevant social science studies.

As with all such “bibliographic” posts on this blog, I offer my sincere apologies to readers who do not have a way to access to the sources on this list, because most are not “open access.”

I welcome additions and comments from readers.

Reading list on culture, society and contemporary change in Egypt:

  1. Agrama, Hussein Ali. 2010. “Ethics, Tradition, Authority: Toward an Anthropology of the Fatwa.” American Ethnologist 37(1):2-18.
  2. Aishima, Hatsuki, and Armando Salvatore. 2009. “Doubt, Faith, and Knowledge: The Reconfiguration of the Intellectual Field in Post-Nasserist Cairo.” Islam, Politics, Anthropology 2009:41-56.
  3. Armburst, Walter. 2002. “Islamists in Egyptian Cinema.” American Anthropologist 104(3):922-930.
  4. _____. 2004. “Egyptian Cinema on Stage and Off.” Off stage/on Display: Intimacy and Ethnography in the Age of Public Culture: 69-98.
  5. _____. 2006 “Synchronizing Watches: The State, the Consumer, and Sacred Time in Ramadan Television.” Religion, Media, and the Public Sphere: 207-226.
  6. Atia, Mona. 2008. “Building a House in Heaven: Islamic Charity in Neoliberal Egypt.” Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation in Geography, University of Washington.
  7. Aziz, Heba. 2001. “Cultural Keepers, Cultural Brokers: The Landscape of Women and Children–A Case Study of the Town Dahab in South Sinai.” Contested Landscapes: Movement, Exile and Place: 121-132.
  8. Bowen, Donna Lee and Evelyn A. Early, eds. 2002. Everyday Life in the Muslim Middle East. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
  9. Coker, Elizabeth Marie. 2004. “‘Traveling Pains’: Embodied Metaphors of Suffering among Southern Sudanese Refugees in Cairo.” Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry 28(1):15-39.
  10. Cuno, Kenneth and Manisha Desai, eds. 2009. Family, Gender, and Law in a Globalizing Middle East and South Asia. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press.
  11. Dhillon, Navtej and Tarik Yousef, eds. 2009. Generation in Waiting: The Unfulfilled Promise of Young People in the Middle East. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press.
  12. Doumani, Beshara, ed. 2003. Family History in the Middle East: Household, Property, and Gender. Albany: State University of New York Press.
  13. Eisenlohr, Patrick. 2010. The Anthropology of Media and the Question of Ethnic and Religious Pluralism. Social Anthropology 19(1):40-55.
  14. Elyachar, Julia. 2002. “Empowerment Money: The World Bank, Non-Governmental Organizations, and the Value of Culture in Egypt.” Public Culture 14(3):493-513.
  15. _____. 2003 “Mappings of Power: The State, NGOs, and International Organizations in the Informal Economy of Cairo.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 45(3):571-605.
  16. _____. 2006 “Best Practices: Research, Finance, and NGOs in Cairo.” American Ethnologist 33(3):413-426.
  17. _____. 2010 “Phatic Labor, Infrastructure, and the Question of Empowerment in Cairo.” American Ethnologist 37(3):452-464.
  18. Gardner, Ann. 2000. “At Home in South Sinai.” Nomadic Peoples 4(2):48-67.
  19. _____. 2002. “Crossroads to Peace in South Sinai.” Cultural Survival Quarterly 26(2):83-85.
  20. Ghanim, David. 2009. Gender and Violence in the Middle East. Westport, Conn: Praeger.
  21. Ghimire, K. B. 2002. “Social Movements and Marginalized Rural Youth in Brazil, Egypt and Nepal.” Journal of Peasant Studies 30(1):30-72.
  22. Gibbons, Jacqueline A. 2005. “Orphanages in Egypt.” Journal of Asian and African Studies 40(4):261-285.
  23. Halliday, Fred. 2000. Nation and Religion in the Middle East. Boulder, CO: Lynne Reinner Publishers.
  24. Hamdy, Sherine F. 2008. “When the State and Your Kidneys Fail: Political Etiologies in an Egyptian Dialysis Ward.” American Ethnologist 35(4):553-569.
  25. ____. 2009. “Islam, Fatalism, and Medical Intervention: Lessons from Egypt on the Cultivation of Forbearance (Sabr) and Reliance on God (Tawakkul).” Anthropological Quarterly 82(1):173-196.
  26. Hartmann, Sarah. 2008. “‘At School we Don’t Pay Attention Anyway’: The Informal Market of Education in Egypt and its Implications.” Sociologus 58(1):27-48.
  27. Hasso, Frances S. 2011. Consuming Desires: Family Crisis and the State in the Middle East. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
  28. Herrera, Linda and Asef Bayat et al., eds. 2010. Being Young and Muslim: New Cultural Politics in the Global South and North. New York: Oxford University Press.
  29. Hirschkind, Charles. 2006. “Cassette Ethics: Public Piety and Popular Media in Egypt.” Religion, Media, and the Public Sphere: 29-51.
  30. Hopkins, Nicholas S. 2007. “Spirit Mediumship in Upper Egypt.” Anthropos 102(2):403-419.
  31. Horiuchi, Masaki. 2001. “Bedouin Society in the Sinai Peninsula.” Cultural Change in the Arab World Vol. 55:13-39.
  32. Houston, Christopher. 2009. “The Islam of Anthropology.” The Australian Journal of Anthropology 20(2);198-212.
  33. Inhorn, Marcia C. 2004. “Middle Eastern Masculinities in the Age of New Reproductive Technologies : Male Infertility and Stigma in Egypt and Lebanon.” Medical Anthropology Quarterly 18(2):162-182.
  34. Joseph, Suad, ed. 2000. Gender and Citizenship in the Middle East. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press.
  35. Karshenas, Massoud and Valentine M. Moghadam, eds. 2006. Social Policy in the Middle East: Economic, Political, and Gender Dynamics. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
  36. Marx, Emanuel. 2006. “Tribal Pilgrimages to Saints’ Tombs in South Sinai.” Archaeology, Anthropology and Cult: The Sanctuary at Gilat, Israel:54-74.
  37. Meskell, Lynn. 2005. “Sites of Violence: Terrorism, Tourism, and Heritage in the Archaeological Present.” Embedding Ethics: 123-146.
  38. O’Sullivan, Declan. 2004. “Hisba Law and Freedom of Expression in Islam: Two Case Studies of Prosecution in Contemporary Egypt.” Journal of Mediterranean Studies 14(1-2):213-235.
  39. Pink, Johanna. 2005. “The Concept of Freedom of Belief and its Boundaries in Egypt: The Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Baha’i Faith between Established Religions and an Authoritarian State.” Culture and Religion 6(1):135-160.
  40. Pratt, Nicola. 2004. “Understanding Political Transformation in Egypt : Advocacy NGOs, Civil Society and the State.” Journal of Mediterranean Studies 14(1-2):237-262.
  41. Schielke, Samuli. 2008. “Policing Ambiguity : Muslim Saints-Day Festivals and the Moral Geography of Public Space in Egypt.” American Ethnologist 35(4):539-552.
  42. _____. 2009. “Being Good in Ramadan : Ambivalence, Fragmentation, and the Moral Self in the Lives of Young Egyptians.” Islam, Politics, Anthropology 2009: 24-40.
  43. Shechter, Relli. 2003. Transitions in Domestic Consumption and Family Life in the Modern Middle East: Houses in Motion. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
  44. Sholkamy, Hania. 2011.” Creating Conservativism or Emancipating Subjects? On the Narrative of Islamic Observance in Egypt.” IDS Bulletin 42(1):47-56.
  45. Shorbagy, Manar. 2007. “The Egyptian Movement for Change – Kefaya: Redefining Politics in Egypt.” Public Culture 19(1):175-196.
  46. Spek, Kees van der. 2008. “Faked Antikas and ‘Modern Antiques’: The Production and Marketing of Tourist Art in the Theban Necropolis.” Journal of Social Archaeology 8(2):163-189.
  47. Wickett, Elizabeth. 2007. “Video as Critique, Praxis and Process.” Visual Anthropology Review : Journal of the Society for Visual Anthropology 23(1):69-75.
  48. ____. 2007b. “Video for Development.” Visual Anthropology 20(2-3):123-141.
  49. Winegar, Jessica. 2006. “Cultural Sovereignty in a Global Art Economy: Egyptian Cultural Policy and the New Western Interest in Art from the Middle East.” Cultural Anthropology 21(2):173-204.
  50. Yount, Kathryn M., and Jennifer S. Carrera. 2006. “Female Genital Cutting and Reproductive Experience in Minya, Egypt.” Medical Anthropology Quarterly 20(2):182-211.
  51. YOunt, Kathryn M. and Hoda Rashad, eds. 2008. Family in the Middle East: Ideational Change in Egypt, Iran, and Tunisia. London/New York: Routledge.
  52. Yount, Kathryn M., and Zeinab Khadr. 2006. “A Biosocial Model of Medication Use among Women and Men in Ismaila, Egypt.” Journal of Biosocial Science 38(5):577-603.

2 thoughts on “Understanding Egypt

  1. MBK

    Off the top of my head, you should check out Diane Singerman’s work – Cairo Cosmopolitan, Cairo Contested, and Avenues of Participation. There is Between Marriage and the Market by Homa Hoodfar. There is a series of publications called “Cairo Papers in Social Science” – and there are some written on interesting topics. Hope this helps!


  2. MBK: These are great sources.

    Also for the list, by Farha Ghannam:

    Remaking the Modern: Space, Relocation, and the Politics of Identity in a Global Cairo. Berkeley: The University of California Press, 2002.
    Co-editor (with Hania Sholkamy) Health and Identity in Egypt. Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 2004.
    “Re-Imagining the Global: Relocation and Local Identities in Cairo,” The City Cultures Reader, ed. By Malcolm Miles, Tim Hall, and Iain Borden. London and New York: Routledge, 2000 (second edition, 2003).
    “Keeping Him Connected: Labor Migration and the Production of Locality in Cairo, Egypt,” City and Society, 1999.

    thanks, Barbara


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