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Ordinary Egyptians: Creating the Modern Nation through Popular Culture

From the 1870s till the 1919-Revolution, popular media and culture provided ordinary Egyptians with a framewrk to create a modern national identity.
Author: Ziad Fahmy,
2011, 264 pages, ISBN: 978-080477212
The popular culture of pre-revolution Egypt did more than entertain—it created a nation. Songs, jokes, and satire, comedic sketches, plays, and poetry, all provided an opportunity for discussion and debate about national identity and an outlet for resistance to British and elite authority. This book examines how, from the 1870s until the eve of the 1919 revolution, popular media and culture provided ordinary Egyptians with a framework to construct and negotiate a modern national identity.

Ordinary Egyptians shifts the typical focus of study away from the intellectual elite to understand the rapid politicization of the growing literate middle classes and brings the semi-literate and illiterate urban masses more fully into the historical narrative. It introduces the concept of "media-capitalism," which expands the analysis of nationalism beyond print alone to incorporate audiovisual and performance media. It was through these various media that a collective camaraderie crossing class lines was formed and, as this book uncovers, an Egyptian national identity emerged.

"Fahmy's work is a well-written and compelling argument to expand our thinking on the formation of Egyptian nationalism. By looking at new sources, found in the written and spoken colloquial Egyptian of everyday Egyptians, Fahmy has greatly added to the historiography of this topic." The Washington Independent Review of Books

About the author

Img of Ziad Fahmy
Ziad Fahmy

Author and Assistant Professor of Modern Middle East History at Cornell University.