Association for Political and Legal Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Various forms of expressive content—from street art, to music, to media production—erupted during the 2011 Egyptian Uprising. The years from 2011-2013 were characterized as exuberant and optimistic, with a deep sense of renewal and change. However, after Egypt’s 2013 military coup, many Egyptians found themselves adjusting back to living under a dictatorship with staunch censorship laws. Activists and artists alike had to re-strategize their work with consideration to Egypt’s heavily surveilled state apparatus. Grounded in an ethnographic study at an alternative media production company in Cairo, this paper teases out how young media makers transitioned their work from “political” to “non-political.” In thinking through my interlocutors’ move away from the political, this paper asks: what is there to gain from doing so? And what does it mean to give up on the state knowing that the state has not let you go? Here, an example of a “non-political space” (Candea 2011) is cultivated through a sense of pragmatism that provides a different understanding of self-censorship; oftentimes, when scholars examine censorship and self-censorship they assume a stifling of creativity that results from fear. However, I examine instances of explicit deliberation—where young media makers discuss if a project is worth the risk—to demonstrate how my interlocutors opt out of certain projects for the gain of something else.