Reflections on the Egyptian Revolution

Needless to say, the privilege of living through a revolution will impact your life uniquely, and forever. The phrase “uncharted territory” describes not only the political scene and possible paths of change and action for Egypt, but also my personal life and career as well. Loss of bearings is not all bad, for the flip side entails liberation. There is an open sea of possibility with great danger and great promise, for Egypt and for me. I will forever remain an anthropologist, and that will not change, but I am most probably living a choice.

Since the first days in Tahrir, I would retire late at night thinking I should record what happened, at least write down the date and main events. Sheer exhaustion made it impossible. As days went by, exhaustion was relatively under control, and so much was lying there waiting to be anthropologised, but I did not touch it. It seems, somehow, I felt or decided that if I “use” this as ethnographic material it would detract from taking it all in, from all of this becoming part of me, of who I will become. Was I making a sacrifice? Was it a convoluted tribute to the martyrs and their blood- that none of this should make it to, say, a “publication” or a tenure application file? That I should not pollute the pure by feeding the sublime event to the cold and brutal machine that rules our existence as academics?

Maybe I was wrong, but this is what happened. Someone had to do it, and I am thus grateful to friends and colleagues from all over the world who have written and are still writing wonderful scholarly pieces. I am also happy that the revolutionary spirit is sweeping many parts of the world, and that peoples’ solidarities are a reality more than ever. This is the bright side of globalization, and it carries much promise for a liberated and perhaps liberating anthropology that I want to be part of.