EUME Berliner Seminar
Wed 07 Nov 2018 | 17:00–18:30

Culture is the Red Line: Scenes from a Sit-In and the Battle for Egyptian Identity

Dina A. Ramadan (Bard College Berlin / EUME Fellow 2018/19), Chair: Hanan Toukan (Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg / EUME Fellow 2012-14)

Forum Transregionale Studien, Wallotstr. 14, 14193 Berlin

The demonstrations that took place in front of the Ministry of Culture – against the ministry’s perceived “Ikhwanization” – throughout the month of June, have often been referred to as the “warm-up” for the Tamarrud led anti-Morsi protests that began on June 30, 2013. The Ministry of Culture sit-in provides an apt case study of the ways in which culture is framed and defined in Egypt today. Moreover, by following the development of the sit-in and its surrounding discourse, the degree to which such framing continues to be shaped by early 20th-century definitions becomes evident; enlightenment or tanwir persists as the foundation for understanding culture or thaqafa and its relationship to a national identity or hawiya. It is in this moment of grave threat to Egyptian identity that dominant ideas about arts and culture become crystalized. These demonstrations become a site of solidarity for middle class Egyptian intellectuals, who see national art and culture as theirs to defend against those unable to understand or appreciate them. While many voice their concern about the immediate perils to artistic freedom, they simultaneously articulate a definition of national culture that is limited and prescriptive: artistic culture is intended, first and foremost, to educate and elevate. Even when discussing art as liberatory, part of freeing against restrictions, its advocates and defenders impose very strict rules on its production and consumption.

Dina A. Ramadan is Assistant Professor of Arabic at Bard College. She received her PhD from the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University and is working on a manuscript entitled The Education of Taste: Art, Aesthetics, and Subject Formation in Colonial Egypt. She is a senior editor of Arab Studies Journal and the guest editor of the Spring 2010 themed issue on the visual arts. She is a founding member of the Association for Modern and Contemporary Art of the Arab World, Iran, and Turkey (AMCA). She has contributed to Arab Studies Journal, Art Journal, Middle East Research and Information Project, Journal of Visual Culture, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Middle East Studies Association Bulletin, Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art and other publications. She has been a EUME Fellow in the academic year of 2013/14 and returned as an affiliated EUME Fellow in fall 2018 while she is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Bard College Berlin.

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