Engaging the World between Egypt and Europe - Reasons to Write after 2011
Dr. Samuli Schielke
One of the most ambiguous outcomes of globalisation has been the emergence of a large class of people around the world who consume images, subscribe to ideologies of global currency and locate themselves in complex multiple identities of religion, consumerism, nationalism, sports, music and creativity, without having access to the mobility or the means of class distinction that have often been associated with the notion of cosmopolitanism. Unlike many other notions of the cosmopolitan, these experiences are strongly marked by a troubling sense of boredom and frustration in the face of a tremendous pressure to advance, created by the promises of a better and grander life that is taking place elsewhere. Under such conditions, fantasy becomes a crucial means to think about a better world.
In the past ten years, this momentum has become increasingly articulated by young writers from different social milieus. Searching for ways to come to terms with a world full of great promises and deep frustrations, they became part of the wave of social critique that provided the ground for the January 25 revolution. The revolution in 2011 has shown the importance and the power of this work of fantasy, but also given it new directions, new hopes, and new frustrations. It is a unique moment when Egyptians do not need to look up to Europe or America, but instead see Europeans and Americans looking up to Egypt. At the same time, the world remains an unequal place, and the writers of poetry and prose from provincial and poor milieus in Egypt still face the difficulty of marrying and building a life, and the necessity to migrate in order to get the money for marriage. In a moment when the world actually changes, but only partly, what are existential and emotional grounds to write poetry, fiction, or social critique? What do people want to accomplish by putting something about their world into words?
These are some of the questions that guide an anthropological research in Alexandria and in the northern Egyptian countryside. This is a research project that explicitly does not address established authors but the much wider scene of people who are beginning to write, who write for themselves or a few friends, ordinary people who have something to say.