The concept "guardians of virtue" appeared in Egypt by the end of the nineteenth century with early social writings that criticized modernity and saw it as a moral subversion of the religious and cultural specificity of the nation under colonialism. At this time the intellectual was treated as the guardian of a good society. In a book such as “Etiquette and Ethics,” its author, Mustafa Bey Najib, denounced the imitator civilization, stressing the obligation to fight it by what he called the “guardians of conscience” who are “alkhufara' alaa aldhmam.”
Intellectuals as “Guardians of Virtue” in 19th- and 20th-Century Egypt
Eman Elnemr (EUME Fellow 2021/22), Chair: Samuli Schielke (Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient)
Forum Transregionale Studien, Wallotstr. 14, 14193 Berlin
With the growth of the entertainment and printing market, the rise in education and reading rates, the arrival of periodicals to the ends of the Egyptian rural, and the relative freedom of movement to and from the city, newspapers have provided space for the people to practice writing and express their opinions on public affairs and even become volunteers in social control over public behavior and decency. therefore, the number of guardians of virtue and morality grew, and from the capital cities of Egypt outside Cairo in Alexandria and the cities of the Delta and Upper Egypt, large groups of people, male and female, were able to understand each other of them, through the newspaper and unite them with a feeling of belonging to one homeland through a moral sense and performing the duty of guarding it. While the state was their safe fortress.
Eman Elnemr received her PhD in modern and contemporary history (2017) from the University of Tanta, Egypt, for her dissertation entitled “Family Businesses in Egypt 1920-1961,” and her MA (2012) for the thesis “The History of Egyptian Theatre and Its Impact on Society (1869-1920).” She published her first book, Egyptian Theatre from the Renaissance to the Revolution of 1919 in 2019 with Dar al-Kutub wa al-Watha’iq al-Qawmiya. Her research interests address hegemonic elite projects and so-called modernization transformations, their effects on society, modes of resistance or responses to them, and public/people’s interventions in shaping them. More specifically, she is concerned with the daily practices of various forms and practices of art and expression that are linked to the transformation of the political economy, including the discourse-making mechanisms that par-take in its construction. In the academic year 2021/22, she is a EUME Fellow.
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