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    Language as proxy in identity politics: the case of revived Egyptian nationalism in Egypt

    Aboelezz, Mariam (2018) Language as proxy in identity politics: the case of revived Egyptian nationalism in Egypt. In: Mendel, Y. and AlNajjar, A. (eds.) Language, Politics and Society in the Middle East. Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 126-147. ISBN 9781474421539.

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    Gramsci famously once said that “every time the question of language surfaces, in one way or another, it means that a series of other problems are coming to the fore” (Gramsci 1985). Nowhere is this statement more true than in the sphere of identity politics. The role of language in ‘classical’ Egyptian nationalism dating to the early 20th century has been well-documented by Yasir Suleiman (see Suleiman 1996, 2003, 2008), where advocating ʿāmmiyya and rejecting fuṣḥā acted as proxy for promoting an Egyptian identity and rejecting an Arab identity. This Egyptian nationalist current espousing Pharaonism is generally considered a thing of the past; superseded by pan-Arab nationalism in the mid 20th century. However, waning pan-Arab feelings have now given way to a new wave of Egyptian nationalism in Egypt which has received little scholarly attention to date. This new wave has had linguistic manifestations, such as the establishment of Wikipedia Masry in 2008 (Panović 2010), the only official version of the online encyclopaedia in a regional variety of Arabic. This is the same year that saw the formation of the Liberal Egyptian Party, an Egyptian nationalist political party which aimed to standardise Egyptian Arabic. More recent political changes in Egypt appear to have spurred on this new nationalist wave, with a government-backed emphasis on ‘Egyptian identity’ in the wake of the military deposal of Egypt’s Islamist president, Mohamad Morsi, in 2013. Recalling the concept of alterity (Suleiman 2008, 2013), this emphasis appears to be an attempt by the new government to distance itself from Islamist ideology (which very easily bleeds into pan-Arab ideology) as well as from its symbols (which include fuṣḥā). In this chapter, I examine how language is used as proxy in this new wave of Egyptian nationalism. I begin by surveying the history of Egyptian nationalism in Egypt before I describe the new wave of nationalism and explain how recent political changes have played in its favour. I then demonstrate how old motifs are revived and show how the language-identity link is established through processes of distanciation, differentiation and identification (Suleiman 2013).


    Item Type: Book Section
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): Arabic, Egypt, Nationalism, language and politics
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Creative Arts, Culture and Communication
    Depositing User: Mariam Aboelezz
    Date Deposited: 09 Jan 2019 15:26
    Last Modified: 09 Aug 2023 12:45


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