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Translating Egypt’s Revolution

Translating Egypt’s Revolution: The Language of Tahrir

Edited by Samia Mehrez
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 340
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  • Book Info
    Translating Egypt’s Revolution
    Book Description:

    This unique interdisciplinary collective project is the culmination of research and translation work conducted by AUC students of different cultural and linguistic backgrounds who continue to witness Egypt's ongoing revolution. This historic event has produced an unprecedented proliferation of political and cultural documents and materials, whether written, oral, or visual. Given their range, different linguistic registers, and referential worlds, these documents present a great challenge to any translator. The contributors to this volume have selectively translated chants, banners, jokes, poems, and interviews, as well as presidential speeches and military communiqués. Their practical translation work is informed by the cultural turn in translation studies and the nuanced role of the translator as negotiator between texts and cultures. The chapters focus on the relationship between translation and semiotics, issues of fidelity and equivalence, creative transformation and rewriting, and the issue of target readership. This mature collective project is in many ways a reenactment of the new infectious revolutionary spirit in Egypt today. “Samia Mehrez and her young colleagues offer a magnificent testimony to the revolution in imagination, signalling the dawn of a new era. A must-read for anyone wanting to grapple with the multiple meanings of Egypt’s unfolding politics." —Michael Burawoy, UC Berkeley

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-356-7
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Note on the Contributors
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Note on Transliteration
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Introduction: Translating Revolution: An Open Text
    (pp. 1-24)
    Samia Mehrez

    By the time this volume is published, more than a year will have passed since the beginning of the January 25, 2011 uprising in Egypt that deposed former President Hosni Mubarak on February 11, 2011 and which continues to remap, in many complex ways, the future of Egypt as well as its position in both the region and the world. This is to say that the Egyptian Revolution, with its ongoing proliferation of narratives, and our attempt here to translate such plurality, each resists and defies unified or unitary meaning and closure. Fromthawra(revolution) tofawra(uprising) toinqilab...

  7. 1 Mulid al-Tahrir: Semiotics of a Revolution
    (pp. 25-68)
    Sahar Keraitim and Samia Mehrez

    Friday, January 28, 2011 marked a crucial turning point in the history and narrative of the Egyptian Revolution, which began on January 25, 2011 with massive demonstrations in several major Egyptian cities to demand the end of the corrupt Mubarak regime that had ruled Egypt for thirty years.¹ January 28, 2011 was the Friday of Rage (Gum‘at al-ghadab); hundreds of marches took place nationwide in protest of the violent confrontations between the Central Security Forces and peaceful demonstrators. Those clashes, which occurred during the first couple days of the uprising, led to the fall of the first martyrs in the...

  8. 2 Of Drama and Performance: Transformative Discourses of the Revolution
    (pp. 69-102)
    Amira Taha and Christopher Combs

    Since early January 2011, many Egyptian activists had been using social networking and video streaming websites to call for mass protests on January 25, Egypt’s Police Day. Renaming it ‘Egypt’s Day of Rage’ (not to be confused with the ‘Friday of Rage,’ which was several days later), Internet activists used all available tools, such as intensely passionate interviews on international satellite news networks and emotionally charged video blogs (vlogs), to mobilize Egyptians to demonstrate that day. And their persistent efforts showed in the numbers of Egyptians that joined the call and remained determined not to leave the streets until their...

  9. 3 Signs and Signifiers: Visual Translations of Revolt
    (pp. 103-142)
    Laura Gribbon and Sarah Hawas

    Beginning on January 25, 2011, thousands of ordinary Egyptians occupied Tahrir Square, in downtown Cairo, marking the beginning of the initial eighteen-day countrywide revolt that resulted in the successful removal of former President Hosni Mubarak. They have returned to Tahrir on several occasions since, demanding an end to injustice and corruption, and an opportunity to participate in the rebuilding of a democratic nation. The uprising unleashed a seemingly endless array of banners and signs, many of which were long, elaborate, and constantly changing. This awakening of individual and collective spirit—a rebirth of public consciousness—was reflected on countless banners....

  10. 4 Reclaiming the City: Street Art of the Revolution
    (pp. 143-182)
    Lewis Sanders IV

    Street art is an aesthetic product of resistance. It is a resistance to the dominant narratives that have subjugated other visual and cultural narratives to a minor role, if not abolished them altogether. It is a way of reclaiming and reappropriating space, and providing a new understanding of the city as rightfully belonging to the people. During the Egyptian Revolution it was used precisely for this purpose, be it the first tags exclaiming the downfall of the regime or rock formations in Tahrir made from chunks of broken pavement during the early days of the uprising. Even elaborate murals memorializing...

  11. 5 al-Thawra al-daHika: The Challenges of Translating Revolutionary Humor
    (pp. 183-212)
    Heba Salem and Kantaro Taira

    The Egyptian Revolution has been labeled ‘al-Thawra al-daHika’ (‘the Laughing Revolution’) not only because of the avalanche of political jokes that it has generated but, perhaps more importantly, because of the very structure and instant dissemination of the jokes themselves, which were inspired to a great extent by both traditional and social media discourses, forms, and languages. Political humor is always embedded in a political culture and history, which are both key to understanding and appreciating the subtleties, ambiguities, and subversive referential worlds of the political joke. This chapter will explore the challenges of translating Egyptian political jokes of the...

  12. 6 The Soul of Tahrir: Poetics of a Revolution
    (pp. 213-248)
    Lewis Sanders IV and Mark Visonà

    The soul is usually spoken of as an immaterial substance, the transcendental essence of a human. Yet, its shelter is the body, which occupies a physical space. In some ways, the poetics inspired during the January 25 Revolution served as the ‘soul’ of the revolutionary moment. Even though Midan al-Tahrir provided the physical epicenter of uprising, poets and musicians did not have to be physically present to participate. Poets were moved to write about this historic moment and their work quickly became part of Tahrir itself, despite the physical absence of the authors. One example is Tamim Al-Barghouti, an Egyptian-Palestinian...

  13. 7 The People and the Army Are One Hand: Myths and Their Translations
    (pp. 249-276)
    Menna Khalil

    January 25 has been designated as “National Police Day” in Egypt since 1952. In 2011, the date marked an uprising against a heap of sociopolitical conditions in Egypt: the thirty-year despotism of Hosni Mubarak (the longest presidential mandate in Egypt’s history); the grooming of Gamal Mubarak (the former president’s younger son) for succession, or rather inheritance, of power; press and speech censorship; uncontested police brutality (through the continued reactivation of the 1958 Emergency Law);¹ corruption among government officials; a deteriorating economy, and an ever-widening gap between the upper and lower classes of the country. As people who took to the...

  14. 8 Global Translations and Translating the Global: Discursive Regimes of Revolt
    (pp. 277-306)
    Sarah Hawas

    In the months following Mubarak’s resignation, a process of translation has been occurring in which the temporal and cultural specificity of the revolutionary moment in Egypt has traveled across the world to command the hearts and minds of non-Egyptians. This process connected individuals across the world—who were protesting against union restrictions, austerity measures, job precariousness, housing crises, the financial system, and the military-industrial complex—with protesters in Egypt, articulating a politics of solidarity, recognition, and in many cases shared class consciousness. Governments and international organizations, too, have been engaged in a very particular process of translation, the invisibility of...

  15. Appendix 1 Arabic Text of Quotes Cited in Chapter 2, “Of Drama and Performance”
    (pp. 307-312)
  16. Appendix 2 Poems Quoted in Chapter 6
    (pp. 313-318)
  17. Appendix 3 Songs Quoted in Chapter 6
    (pp. 319-324)