Tuesday, December 1, 2015

"The Egyptian Dream"

Noha Mellor is Professor of Media, with special focus on pan-Arab media, as well as Deputy Director of the Research Institute for Media, Arts and Performance at the University of Bedfordshire and co-director of Centre for International Media Analysis, Research & Consultancy.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Egyptian Dream: Egyptian National Identity and Uprisings, and reported the following:
As a native Egyptian, I was moved by the 2011-uprising and the people’s chant to overthrow the regime. I have wanted to write about the uprisings since then but so much has happened, and it was difficult to structure an informed discussion while changes constantly disrupted the political scene. One topic that really intrigued me was the Egyptian identity especially when one American friend asked me if Egyptians share one national ethos, or a dream like the American dream. This book The Egyptian Dream is an attempt to explore that question.

On page 99, I discuss one of the main cornerstones of national identity, namely education, and I argue that education system in Egypt has contributed to consolidating a two-tier society, in as much as it is involved in stratifying citizens, not necessarily according to their intellectual abilities, but according to their socio-economic status. The Egyptian education system is characterised by its bifurcation, but this is also mirrored in the state of the language as the tool to articulate national identity and the main instrument for social interaction between educators and students. The written variety of Arabic is largely taught at state schools, although the Egyptian vernacular has been recently debated as a proof of the uniqueness of Egypt casting doubt on its ‘Arab-ness’. On the other hand, English language has prevailed in the ever-increasing number of private schools. In fact, the 2011-revolution is an example of the success of privately-educated people with a host of skills, including English language and media skills, who attracted a great deal of attention from both regional and Western media.

After discussing education, language, religion, social class and revolutionary ideas, the book concludes that Egyptians may not share a set of values which they can ascribe to themselves รก la the American creed, whether in work ethics or democratic or constitutional values, and which could incorporate diverse groups, including non-Egyptians, into the national Egyptian fabric. The only dominant value, which has gained more force since 2011, is patriotism, as a manifestation of strong loyalty to the territory rather than to a set of norms. Diversity in ideologies and beliefs, however, and which used to prevail during the early part of the twentieth century, has now become a divisive force in Egypt.
Learn more about The Egyptian Dream at the Edinburgh University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue