Sounds of Economic Collapse in Egypt

In this episode of AnthroPod, guest producer Maria Frederika Malmström invites us to listen to the everyday sounds of Egyptians experiencing economic change in the capital city of Cairo. Her recordings take us through the city’s streets, where we hear the sounds of vendors, protesters, and passing motorists as well as the sonic dynamics of life at home. Malmström aims to confront listeners with the materiality and the affective experience of sound, even as spoken narratives remain a dominant medium for conveying the sound of economic collapse. All names and identifying information have been changed to protect participants in her research.

Cairo sklyine. Photo by Maria Frederika Malmström.

Maria Frederika Malmström is Associate Professor in the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Lund University and Visiting Scholar at the Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Columbia University. Her current research includes a collaborative project on suspicion as a social force in urban Africa, taking as its starting point materiality as a mode of social, political, and cultural articulation. A second project explores the making and unmaking of masculinities in relation to religious identities, citizenship, and the state through an ethnography of soundscapes in Cairo.

Maria Frederika Malmström
Maria Frederika Malmström in Tahrir Square, 2014.

Photo Gallery

All of the photos in this section were taken in Cairo by Maria Frederika Malmström. The omission of captions is a conscious choice, intimately linked to Malmström’s theoretical commitments to affect theories, posthuman agency, and new materialism (even as her work remains firmly grounded in empirical research).


Further Reading/Viewing

Malmström’s experimental short film “Egypt in Motion,” as well as a photo essay and longer text-based essay that she published in Anthropology Now, also explore materiality, affect, and politics in Egypt.


Production and sound recording: Maria Frederika Malmström and two unnamed collaborators from Egypt.

Editing: Maria Frederika Malmström, and two sound engineers from Egypt.

Music: This episode features excerpts from “4 My Students,” by Mr Kordy, “Alf lila wa lila,” by Umm Khaltoum, and “Zizotag, Waade alaiam,” by Abdelrahem Mansor and Ahmed Mounib, as well as other Egyptian artists who prefer to stay anonymous. Thanks to the artists for granting permission to use these excerpts in the episode.

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