Farha Ghannam: Reflections on Masculinity and Violence in the Egyptian Revolution
Associate Professor of Anthropology Farha Ghannam is an authority on contemporary Islamic practices and identities and gender and sexuality in the Middle East. Other areas of her teaching and research interest are globalization and transnationalism; displacement and relocation; gender and the body; urban ethnography; spatial practices; identity; anthropological theories; and history of ethnography. She has conducted extensive fieldwork in Jordan and Egypt.
Speaker 1: Hello everyone, and welcome to the next in the series of the facility lectures. This is fabulous. What a fabulous turnout. Today, Farha Ghannam will be speaking on Gidan Filmidan, reflections of masculinity and the use of violence in the Egyptian Revolution. And to introduce her today is her colleague from Sociology and Anthropology, Sarah Willie-LeBreton.
Sarah Willie-LeBreton: Good afternoon, friends. It's a pleasure to introduce my colleague, Dr. Farha Ghannam, associate professor of Anthropology. I'd like to begin, however, with a very brief tribute to my dissertation advisor, Arlene Kaplan Daniels, who died last week at the age of 81. She advised Joy Charleton and me a few years later while we were graduate students at Northwestern University. Arlene was a force to be reckoned with. An outstanding feminist, ally to other marginalized groups, and finally, an anthropologist sociologist. By that, I mean she was a qualitative sociologist of no mean ability.
Her love of people, their depths and contradictions, their fortitude and weaknesses, kept her going, even when she was discouraged from completing graduate school because she was married, banned from ten-year track jobs because she was female, and finally, nearly fifteen years after she received, her doctorate, had to take a job outside of the state with the most robust public higher education system of the time, California, and a thousand miles away from her husband in order to fulfill her dream of being a ten-yeared sociologist. I think it's meaningful to mention Arlene Daniels in memorial because she's a reminder for me that there's nothing to fear in the scholarly work of scientific and artistic exploration. Even when it is on a group of subjects that one is not supposed to study. Her last book, 'Invisible Careers' was about women who were upper-class and Protestant and whose work was in the volunteer world. They were not people from whom Doctor Daniels was supposed to study or to respect, or who's common sneeze told her would respect her as a Jewish woman with quote on quote too much education who worked for a living.
Dr. Farha Ghannam takes us today into the world of Arab men. Not people for whom, as a feminist scholar, she has been expected to study and treat seriously. But like Arlene Kaplan Daniels before her, Farha Ghannam is a fearless anthropologist. A sociologist anthropologist. Because she goes into the modern and the post-modern, and the industrialized urban spaces. For those of you who do not know professor Ghannam, she is a native of Jordan, though she is on the eve of becoming an American citizen. In Jordan, she earned a bachelors of journalism and mass communication and then went on to earn a masters in social anthropology. Both from Yarmouk University. Her doctorate in anthropology is from the University of Texas in Austin. I find it important that her undergraduate work began in observation and recording the kind of careful observation and recording that is central to a democratic society. I also find it important that her desire for depth and mastery of frankly swimming upstream and the deep and rock-infested waters of culture led her to what I consider to be the preeminent discipline and the deciphering of social meaning, anthropology.
Professor Ghannam has been a prolific scholar, behaving as if she were at a research university. With two articles that were published last year, another coming out this year, in the preeminent journal of her discipline, the American Ethnologist, her entry, Egypt, will grace the pages of the gale groups forthcoming world mark encyclopedia. She has two edited volumes under her belt. Her first single authored monograph 'Remaking the Modern', published by the University of California press in 2002, and she is now completing a second single-authored volume, 'To Live and Die like a Man' under contract with Stanford University press.
Farha's earlier work on urban space was, she told me, "shaped by national and international discourses, social inequalities, and an attempt to get at how people work and rework their spaces". The link between 'Remaking the Modern' and her current work is still with space, but a honing down to a consideration of the body itself, as the space with which one reckons.
According to Dr. Ghannam, while men were at one point the only object of study in the Middle East, and just that, objects of study in the colonial imagination. Next came a focus on women, a more nuanced focus, and one that broke intellectual boundaries. A return to a re conceptualized understanding of embodiment and masculinity had not yet become a priority for scholars, Farha acknowledges. And so she came to this project almost by accident. After being intellectually distracted, in [inaudible 00:05:04] sense of the word, by a religious audio tape circulated in Cairo in the late 1990s that focused on young men and how their sexual desires might be managed and controlled.
For Farha, the space or spaces of the body are not less worked and reworked by social processes and cultural discourses than are the spaces of the city. Today, Farha Ghannam finds herself theorizing how urban life as a thing itself, she's taken the study of the city to places Emile Durkheim never could have anticipated. How urban life participates in shaping peoples' identities. But also their gendered identities and bodies, and particularly the bodies and spaces and structures and options of and for men. The most recent social and political transformation in Egypt and the rest of the quote on quote Middle East for all of the problems of conceiving of this place, these places as geographic and social monoliths. This political transformation enlightens her own research, she insists, predicts it, and is predicted by it. But prediction is my word. The conceit and distraction of sociologist.
Understanding, however, is the goal of our allied colleagues in anthropology. And understanding is anthropologist Fahar Ghannam's forte. The list of Professors Ghannam's awards, honors, and fellowships is lengthy, as is the list of service she does for the college, the tri-college consortium, my own department, the programs in gender and sexuality studies, Islamic studies, the Arabic program in modern languages and literature, for her students and on various college-wide committees. You might only imagine what last year was like for her as newspaper after radio show after student group asked again and again for her insight and opinion during the unfolding of what has come to be know as Arab Spring.
Although she had anticipated a quiet sabbatical, her generous spirit encouraged her to engage in this public anthropology. For that, for her insights, her good teaching, her courage, her kindness, and her intellectual acumen, we are all so fortunate. Please join me in welcoming Farha Ghannam.
Farha Ghannam: Thank you so much for coming. I'm honored to have all of you here. Thank you Sarah for the very nice introduction. I did appreciate it and I appreciate all the support that and the department offer me. In particular, I'd like to thank [inaudible 00:07:39] for her everyday support in every possible way. Without her, life would have been very very difficult, if at all possible. I'd like to thank also my anthropology group. [Names 00:07:54] Liz Brown, oh there you are, and the most recently, Lizzie Falcony. I should say that they've been a tremendous help for me, especially last year when I was in sabbatical. They kept me organized and their support and leading of my jobs have been invaluable.
I'd like to thank all my students who inspire me every single day and I get so much energy from them. I do appreciate that. All of you have been terrific. In particular, I would like to thank Allison Stool [Names 00:08:26]. Thank you all for all your help and support in many different ways. And also I would like to thank the college for financially supporting the research and the writing and the foot foundation for supporting my research. And I'm sure I'm forgetting lots of people, but I want to end the thank you note by thanking my daughter Lina who is here today. She is old enough to be in the talk and I'm very proud of that. And I thank Lina not only because she's been part of my research and she came with me to Cairo and I was there on sabbatical for a year, but because she puts up with mom's endless number of hours of work. So thank you Lina. You know why I work so hard now I hope.
So as Sarah was saying, it was almost six months into my sabbatical and I was very happy writing when suddenly major transformation started happening in Egypt. And for a moment at least, I had this moment of panic. Is anything I'm saying or writing about relevant anymore? And I honestly was almost paralyzed for a little while with that feeling, except had it not been for my writing group and for all the other people who have been asking me questions about what has been happening, which actually made me realize that in fact what I was saying was extremely relevant. So today I'm going to talk to you a little bit about the connections that were not intended beforehand, but how in fact anthropology can work may help us understand maybe something about the political social transformation that are shaping the Middle East, and Egypt in particular.
And today, I'm not going to talk, and of course I'm tempted to talk about the whole book, but I'm going to limit my discussion to one aspect of it and I will be open for any questions you may have.
So all of us have been following the tremendous excess of the January 25, 2011 Egyptian protest. And this protest has in fact captured the imagination of scholars, activists, and journalists, who have been eager to understand the forces facilitated the mobilization, the unexpected mobilization that was the interesting thing. Even the activists did not expect this kind of mobilization. So how do we make sense out of that?
When they try to analyze what's happened in Egypt, they pay attention to first, lots of important issues such as the Tunisian Revolution. Social media, Facebook in particular and Twitter have been highlighted. Economic marginalization, political corruption, and effect of collaboration between different social and political groups. And these are of course all very important aspects for us to think about, even though you know we could problematize all this emphasis on Facebook and so on, which I could talk about later, but not at this moment.
Yet, for me, what has been really missing, has been how structures are feeling. Have been shaped by interplay, between local cultural meanings and values and broader national struggles and events. The phase, 'structures of feeling', was advanced by Raymond Williams to capture the interplay between the social and personal, objective and subjective, fixed and active, explicit and implicit, and thought and feeling. William chose the word feeling in particular to emphasize a distinction from more formal concepts, formed view and ideology, and to highlight the need to [inaudible 00:12:02], for formally held and systematic beliefs, but also for meanings and values as they are actively lived and felt. And the relations between these and formal or systematic beliefs.
So although social media, the media in general, actually, allowed us to, especially those who were outside of Egypt, to closely follow and virtually pause major events, especially in Midan, Tahrir, or Liberation square, we have little knowledge of how these events were interpreted in one hand by Egyptians and how they shaped and formed interpretations and feelings for the Egyptians and their stance toward the revolution and the Mubarak hearing.
Today, I would like to change the shifting feelings of some of my close intellectuals, [inaudible 00:12:51], a low income neighborhood, if this works ... A low income neighborhood in northern Cairo where I have been working for the past 18 years. And explore some of the cultural concepts and meanings that inform their attempts to make sense out of the changing events during their first desert revolution.
Specifically, I would like to reflect on how existing categories and concepts that create a structure, uses of violence in this neighborhood, have been centered to the ways men and women interpreted the actions of the protesters and their opponents in Midan, Tahrir. These interpretations ultimately from their views of the revolution, [inaudible 00:13:32] and his supporters.
So all of us remember the January 25, 2011 when the even started in Midan, Tahrir. And how they started building up. So my discussion is going to actually just be focused on the first few days of this protest. And I want to address with you how the feelings of the residents of this neighborhood, or some of them that I know, shifted.
So knowing about the frequent encounters with the government and its agents, especially the police, they economic hardships that structured their daily lives, their political marginalization, and the history of protest movements in this neighborhood, I expected people in [inaudible 00:14:12] to immediately and fully embrace the calls for social and economic justice. I thought this is about them. About their daily life that they were living. However, during the first few days, the families I talked to over the phone and I should say that these are not Twitters users or Facebook users. They don't have access to any of the social media, and only way I could communicate with them was with phone, which is very interesting technology that I think we tend to forget about in light of all this fascination world and social media.
But talking to them, there was a sense of uncertainty about what was happening that they all expressed. And they were not sure about how long the demonstrations would last and who the protesters ever were. Who are these people? We have no idea who they are. The residents, especially daily workers and families with no savings felt unsafe and worried about their livelihoods. They blamed the protesters for disrupting their access to work, threatening their safety, and destabilizing the country.
Because of the government censorship, many were largely limited to watching TV channels that supported official lines of argumentation. They thought poorly of the activists and use the lines offered by government propaganda, describing the protestors as troublemakers who were paid their daily Alamo in Euros by outsiders and who were served free meals from Kentucky Fried Chicken. And you know the symbolism of Kentucky Fried Chicken is actually very meaningful here because it was indicating that they are really pro-westerners and they ate western food and used their money to destabilize the country.
These feelings were especially strong in the immediate aftermath of an emotional speech by Mubarak on February 1. I think some of you may remember that. In which in that speech, he warned against potential chaos and disorder generated by the demonstrations. He promised that he would neither run again for the position, nor pass his position to his son. And declared that he has served Egypt for most of his life and would like to die and be buried in the soil of Egypt.
This speech moved many people this area who fully supported the president and his plans for change. In fact, they never dreamed that he would get to that point. They felt that he was offering major concessions and that the protesters would be unreasonable if they refused to give him a chance to finish his term in September 2011. And their feelings and views however changed rapidly after the attack on administrators on Liberation Square on February 2.
So during the 18 days I'm talking about, between January 25 and February 11. During these days that led to the movement of Mubarak, Midan Tahrir was transformed into an epicenter of familiar geography that connected Egyptians in different locations into the same political and ethical project. And I talk a lot about the Midan Tahrir and it's centrality and the significance of its history and it's significance in the border and imagine it of Cairo but I think there will be time for us here to do that. I think that the important point to emphasize is that the Midan is spacial centrality and its historical significance enabled millions of Egyptians to come together as citizens who shared pressing grievances and demands.
Despite initial clashes with the police, the demonstrators continued to grow in numbers and the police withdrew January 28 to be the place by members of the army who declared that they would not shoot at the protestors. So the army was welcomed, actually, when that occurred in the first few days.
So everybody was optimistic. Things are going to be peaceful and things are going to work out. Remember I talk about the speech that Mubarak gave on February 1 and everybody was very sympathetic. Exactly on February 2, we have the so-called Mubarak supporters attacking the Midan. So we start having these ... I think many of us did see the follow with tremendous heartache, in my case, as men riding horses and camels attack the square, whipping stones, whips, clubs, knives, sticks, firebombs, and even guns against peaceful protestors. These attackers were immediately seen by many Egyptians, including people in Zamalek, and we're going to talk about that in a minute. That it's facts who were commissioned by government officials to frighten the demonstrators. After several days of attacks and people getting injured, trying to protect themselves with all the means they had, we start seeing the protestors enacting fences around Midan, Tahrir, to protect themselves and during that period, they actually showed tremendous courage and they managed to chase the attackers away and to erect the fences to protect the area.
My intellectuals, relatives, and media coverage clearly mark these attacks and the successful defense of Tahrir Square as among the most important moments in the recent Tahrir evaluation. The assess played a central role in the transformation of used politicians, artists, intellectuals, movie stars, and members of the elite. But at the same time, ordinary residents like people in [inaudible 00:19:41].
The attacks brought to the foreground the situations between the past and the present, the local and international, and the proper uses of violence that shaped in powerful ways the views many Egyptians held of the protestors and the pro-Mubarak supporters.
So over the past decade, and as Sarah was saying in my interest in masculinity, violence has become an important part of my ethnographic research. And as argued by many other scholars in different parts of the world, not only the Middle East, but globally, including the US, there is a strong relationship between the social construction of masculinity and the use of violence. While violence is not a privilege within itself, it is part of the practice in which particular men or groups of men claim respect, intimidate rivals, or try to gain advantages.
Similarly in Zawya, men are expected to use violence, both inside and outside the home [inaudible 00:20:37]. I have a very leveled discussion of this issue of violence and I wish I could go in a lot of depth in it, because it's a very important topic. In particular when it comes to the Middle East where the method of the violent Middle Eastern man is so incredible common and is very centered to the dehumanization of Middle Eastern men. I wish I could perhaps talk much more about this, but I wanted to highlight a few points about the use of violence in the neighborhood, and perhaps later we could elaborate a bit more on, in particular, this method plays itself in the US and how it's used in policing, monitoring, torturing, and excluding admin.
So I'll make a few points before I move to link this to the evolution. If you look at violence in daily life in a neighborhood like [inaudible 00:21:28], the first thing to note; it's not arbitrary. It's not something unstructured, but rather there are ethical codes and mechanisms in place that aim to contain under grade issues. So this is the first point.
The second point is actual violence is a social practice. It is an exercise of power that is productive. Notice I'm saying productive, I'm not saying positive, okay? Productive in a sense, it could produce a result. It could produce a fact. It could produce the kind of categories that it aims to only describe. So you know, a real man, for instance. The category "real man" is tied to a particular deployment of violence in certain context. That is to say, it's actually selective. It's selective deployments create the subjects that it claims to simply represent. I would like to highlight that is is selective. Because a man who is selective about using violence, he uses very frequently, in an unmeasured way, could totally be undermined as a man.
So for it to be affective, it has to be measured, and frequent, and used in its proper context. These are important points to keep in mind for my following discussion.
At the same time, there is a strong connection between the legitimate use of violence and upholding cherished social norms, on the one hand, and enforcing the hierarchy that structure relationships between men and women, old and young, parent and child, citizen and state. The ability of others, and this is the last point I'm making here about point. The ability of others to monitor, classify, judge, and attach meanings to various violent acts as well as the fact that they are expected. People are expected. In fact, obliged to interfere to stop the use of force, is key to the regulation and management of violence both at home and outside. So there is an ethical code that regulates how, when violence is used. An ethical code that makes it actually a public add that everybody should be involved in, even in particular to stop it, and to contain it.
More broadly, if you look closely at the daily use of violence, you will find that people clearly make a distinction between proper, improper, legitimate, illegitimate uses of violence. And this is incredibly significant for my presentation today. So I'm going to focus in particular in two categories that are significant [inaudible 00:23:58] that became nationally significant and that is the concept of Gadana and [inaudible 00:24:03]. I'm going to elaborate much more on them in a minute. But Gadana and Bogtuga are concepts that differentiate, commend, and condemn different uses of violence and how they relate to specific contexts and social inequalities. The interesting thing about these two concepts is that events in Tahrir desecrate themselves actually occupied these existing categories very well. So what the rebels, or in Suwan, the protestors had proven themselves to be the dan, the first concept, relative to Gadana. Brave and decent men and women willing to sacrifice their legs for the dignity and good of the whole nation. Mubarak's government and supporters were seen as [inaudible 00:24:44]. Don't worry, I am going to elaborate on this in a minute. Don't feel you have to absorb all of this.
This is actually a very meaningful discussion, so let me start by elaborating on the notion of Gada. What happened to my beautiful Arabic writing?
Okay, it looks much better at home. And in the office too. I was trying to impress you that I could use Arabic PowerPoint, so much for that.
But if you look at this slide, you'll see that here, we have the object of Gadana, one is [inaudible 00:25:17], the plural. And the Gada, basically, the first person who excels in materializing social norms that define the modern universe of Egyptian popular classes, including intelligences, valor, toughness, reliability, and decency. As in other popular shabby quarters in Egypt, in Cairo, in Zawee, the objective Gadana, the first a mix of gallantry and nobility, audacity, responsibility, generosity, vigor, and manliness.
Agada is a person who does not except injustice or tyranny. And usually stands for the weak against the strong. In Zawia, where I do my research, parents strongly desire their sons and daughters, for that matter, to be Gadan, to be supportive and assertive, but without oppressing others. [inaudible 00:26:05]. Part of Gadana is not to resort to violence, except in its proper context, including self defense, aiding friends and relatives, and protecting vulnerable individuals and family members, especially female family members. It is important to know that not all men are Gadan and not all Gadan are men. A women or a boy who materializes key aspects of Gadana could acquire the symbolic label. A woman who's form savvy about traveling, wise about spending money, and capable of asserting herself in a brink of others, especially men, is referred to as Gada, which is the feminine of Gadan. So action, not gender, determines who deserves this label and who does not.
This concept is actually to be contrasted with the concept of Botogy. And so in contrast to the Gada, a botogy is someone, usually a man, who uses violence to impose how own well on others to further his personal interest. This concept has a long history that goes back as far as the Ottomans. But it was reinvented by the Egyptian government in recent times to control what it called social terrorism. I'm talking about the Mubarak government. Whereas in the late 1980s and early 1990s, government representatives and journalists used the phrase usually to refer to Islamic leaders. Since the mid 1990s, social Botaga primarily referred to the violence that erupted between government agents and young men in popular quarters. So this is basically what the government did to control young men and their movements. So they issued, actually, a low number six, which is [inaudible 00:27:47], how to regulate fags. It was passed in 1998 to regulate behavior deemed antisocial and threatening. And proposed stiff penalties for acts thought to intimidate others.
This law, granted security forces, here is the secrete: this law granted security forces extensive powers to stop, search, question, and detain individuals suspected of threatening order and security. It became this incredibly broad thing that was used mainly to brutalize and harass and regulate this young men. Centered to this process has been the control of valued spaces, such as streets, marts, local markets, and they're used, especially by young men. At the same time, and this is really a key point to remember, Botogy were appropriated as useful tools of the police. So the police start recruiting these Botagy, training them and paying them to come to protest wherever they emerge, scare opposition groups, intimidate voters during elections especially, and generate a sense of chaos that justified the need for heavy policing of various spaces and groups. So the more Bogoty are out there, the more you need police to counter them and to control the states.
Unlike this understanding, which tended to lump young men together as potential Botagy, the finishing of Botaga in [inaudible 00:29:10] focuses mainly on the improper uses of violence in daily life. Contrary to the Gada, who aims to help and protect others, Botagy is a person who uses force to bully others, take over their property, extract money from them, or cause them to comply with his wishes. He does not work to further the popular good or serve the community, but is focused on his own well-being. And his loyalties are easily bought and you could in fact higher a Bog who could do certain things for you and so on.
And in addition to his conduct, both his weapon and [inaudible 00:29:45] embodiment, so his weapon, which is usually a kind of Singa, it's called Singa, it's a long knife that's usually held very visible because that's what you do, you intend to intimidate people so it has to be visible. Unlike the other weapons that young men might carry, like a small knife that they usually hide very discreetly and they don't take it out unless it is needed. And also, his appearance. In particular, the way he dresses, but also the visible scars on his face, that signify to others that I'm a tough guy, I've been in fights, and I'm not afraid of confrontation. And that's the reason why a lot of young men, when they get into fights, they want to protect the face. They don't want it to be scarred. Because that would be interpreted as a sign of failed Botaga.
So for people in [inaudible 00:30:29], the bodily hexes, the bodily signs, as well as the weapons, was what signified to them, as well as the conduct, who was a Botagy. So through there on, the observations and the testimonies of relatives and neighbors, people are able to recognize who socially defined as a Botagy in their community and work to either avoid, control, or diffuse them.
This distinction between Botagy and Gada became particularly relevant during the recent 18 days that I was talking about. And they strongly shared the shifting feelings of my intellectuals and [inaudible 00:31:05]. The conduct of the protestors, which were at first suspicious. There were people who were very suspicious of and they negatively viewed, became overtime legitimized and equated with motions of Gadana. While at the same time, the conduct from Mubarak and his supporters which was considered legitimate or possibly legitimate became actually more legitimized and part of the original Botaga.
In notions of Gadana became clearly articulated, both in [inaudible 00:31:36] at the same time. In particular, the fact that the occupiers of both spaces worked in parallel ways to aid, protect, support, and contain violence, generated both emotional and political connections that linked them to the same model and political project. The mobilization of people in Zawia against the potential threat of Botagy was particularly significant. So what happened, if you remember when I was talking about January 28, that's when the police withdrew from the streets and a huge number of criminals was either released or escaped, it depends who's telling the story from prisons, and that generated tremendous sense of fear and uncertainty. And they police station on January 28, not only in Zuri, but in other places too, they were burned down and everybody felt very insecure and escaped.
In particular, because there were these rumors that threatened that Botagy from different areas are going to come and get you. So when it was Zawia in 2011, there were likely no ... We thought they were going to come and attack us and they thought we were going to go and attack them. So another way that I'm feeling around uncertainty at the same time. So there was context that generated the mobilization of the men in this particular neighborhood. Who formed groups to defend the neighborhood and their families against potential attacks. So they formed groups and armed themselves with batons, bottles, knives, and hoses. They stayed up there at night and worked together to watch over the streets, monitor cars, check identities, clean streets, and offer basic services.
This both reflected and reinforced a strong sense of their comradery and solidarity, and at the same time, materialized the kind of masculine ethics that are very highly regarded in this neighborhood. About protecting, aiding, providing, bravery, assertiveness, and song. Going through the fears, if you think about the neighborhood going through the fears, the worry, and the risk of protecting their neighborhood, it was not difficult for many people in Zawia to increasingly identify with eh protestors who were also subjected to the violence of Botagy, especially on February 2, as I showed you the slides before.
Just as Zawia attempted to defend and care for the neighborhood, those in the square also protected it, cleaned it, and offered emotional, medical, and material support to its occupants. So I'll show you a few slides here, then it is great in that sense. If I have any complaints about it, it's definitely not that, and that's a great thing. If you check the BBC Interactive website, it's fantastic because it just shows you how the square was organized and if you look here ... Clearly, to my mind, it became like a little city within the big city. And you find so many different things that were happening there. You know, clinics, different clinics, and a different part of it. The bloggers, they had their section, and they were protesting the news to different people who were getting married in Tahrir. They're very proud of that.
[inaudible 00:35:00] actually volunteered his time. He really wanted to cut peoples hair there. This was during the 18 days, because he thought people should look good. Sleeping and protecting it, protecting it in different ways, including sleeping with the tanks.
Music. I wish I had the time to talk about that, but maybe later. The cleaning it, beautifying the square was a very important, significant part of how the protestors not only wanted to keep the environment clean, but they were creating a space that countered the broader ineffective, irresponsibility of the government. So for instance, you know, trash has been a major problem in a city like Cairo. Not even the French managed to solve that problem in Cairo because the government's like, "We can't handle it, just give it to private French companies." And they couldn't do that. So I think the protestors, they worked, they weren't trying to counter that by creating a view of the kind of future they were aspiring to and were hoping to materialize after Mubarak.
And of course this part of the celebrations that took place in Tahrir after Mubarak decided, I mean to say, was forced to leave. So through such parallel actions and emotional connections, the protestors were redefined as Gadan and national heroes. Well-educated, reliable, and trustworthy young men who were willing to sacrifice financial success and easy living to advocate for freedom and social justice.
Their [inaudible 00:36:38], or stance, attitudes, showed the type of masculinity that is highly regarded in Zawia. A sharp ethical contrast was created between these cherished heroes who avoided violence as much as possible. But who were brave enough, and that's the key, to defend themselves and protect Tahrir square. On one hand, you have these heroes who were assertive, brave, did not resort to violence, and you have on the other hand, the Botagy who unjustly used violence against the peaceful protestors for the sole purpose of defending the interest of few corrupt politicians. Whereas the occupants of Tahrir represented the nations aspirations for a brighter future, the acts of Botaga became closely linked to the state and its arbitrary use of violence. And this is a major difference. That the state has been using violence arbitrarily, but that was a moment that articulated that very nicely to the people.
It's habit of breaking its promises and the tendency to use illegitimate means to serve the interest of a small minority at the expense of the whole nation. As one of my female intellectuals and Zawia, who was originally very moved by Mubarak's speech told me, "The president was making all these promises and asking people to trust him and the next thing we hear about is the attacks in Tahrir. How does he expect us to believe him after that?"
She critically reflected on her earlier emotional reaction, and support for Mubarak after his speech and explained to me almost all of her relatives and neighbors felt as she did because they are kind-hearted and forgiving. They truly believe the president's promises, and wanted to give him another chance. However, by the summer of 2011, she insisted that the protesters were right. She praised them for not accepting Mubarak's empty promises and for insisting on their demands. She detailed the terrible consequences that could have resulted, had Mubarak stayed in power.
At the same time, the events in Tahrir Square and in Zawia clearly confirmed what may had known and believe for a long time about the illegitimate use of force by state agents. Samuel, at work in his early forties, argued that like Botagy, the police used force to obtain illegitimate payments, special bribes, to enable to government to extract taxes from ordinary citizens. So actually thought the taxes, they were forced to pay very comparable to the money that the Botagy was asking people for because they were not really giving them anything at all, and at the same time, they were forced to give them, they were not willingly giving it. In fact, he concluded, no only had the previous government used Botagy to intimidate it political opponents, but its officials themselves were also Botagy because they used the techniques of Botaga. That's really important. So they become Botagy themselves. Not only they hire Botagy, but they are also Botagy themselves. And this systemic magnitude of the corruption, the brutality of the police and the amount of force that continues to be now one of the key factors that people are rallying around and using to support the revolution on one hand and make an argument against the previous revolution, the regime.
Thus, the figure of the Botagy, utilized by Mubarak's government to control youth and their spacial mobility became centered to the cause that strongly condemned that governments actions and their mindless legitimacy and framed the [inaudible 00:40:09] feelings of many Egyptians.
Over the past year, the feat of Botagy have become a major public concern in Egypt, as well as a significant [inaudible 00:40:19] in the struggle of the legitimacy and the visibility. When a visitor to Zawia in July 2011, all of my intellectuals were concerned about Botagy and the threat they posed to them and to others. The story circulated about the kidnapping of people for ransom, the deceptive cause, the snatching of handbags and jewelry from women, even during daylight. This is totally unheard of from the context of Cairo, so this is a major disturbing change for them. Even the shooting of police officers and the beating of ordinary citizens, even, their death. Such events were usually taking place in other neighborhoods has strong emotional impact on the citizens of Zawia. Sometimes they would check and say, "Nobody would kidnap us because we have no money, so we are not worried about that at all." But at the same time, there was this fear and this uncertainty that was reflecting in small things, like for instance, how they start adding more locks to the door. How they start, in a big building, having an outside door that would be locked at night, which was not the case at all before the proliferation of these Botagy.
Whereas, such criminal acts like snatching someone's jewelry or handbag, or kidnapping someone, are easily classified by people as active Botaga over the past few months. The concept has become more ambiguous, contested, and politicized. And I think many of you have seen it and heard it in so many different venues.
The media report daily accusations and counter-accusations of Botaga and different groups use this term to describe their opponents. So the supreme council of the armed forces, which is ruling Egypt now, has been using the term Botaga is various contexts to assert its power and to de legitimize the actions of others. Others here is becoming a very broad and shifting category that includes, but goes beyond the protestors. Who are the others is shifting everyday. It depends on what the army has in mind that day, or the council.
The council reactivated the [inaudible 00:42:20], which gave them tremendous power to entertaining and severely punishing a wide range of individuals. Many have been critical of the ways in which the supreme council uses this term, the term Botagy and Botaga. Activists in particular have been disapproving of the tendency of the council to use the term to negatively portray those who defy its orders and to describe Tahrir Square protesters and to turn their image from [inaudible 00:42:46], revolutionaries, to Bogaty or thugs. Many have used such accusations as an indication of continuities between the current and the previous regimes, claiming the acts of the Bogata are deliberately commissioned by the supporters of a counterrevolution to undermine the accomplishments of the January 25 revolutions
In short, Botagy have become sort of the mass actors that select what the government like to call the "head in hands". These are heads in mysterious hands that are trying to ruin the country and cultivate fear and chaos.
To further complicate this picture, while originally the protestors in Midan, Tahrir, and other parts of Egypt, wanted to distance themselves from Botagy and from the emersion of Botaga. Most recently, they actually started appropriating the concept in an ironic sort of way to say, "If you think that revolutionary acts of Botaga, they we are going to become Botagy. We are proud of being Botagy." Which I think is an interesting move, but at the same time, I'm not sure how successful it's going to be, in terms of speaking to the sensibilities of people like the resident of [inaudible 00:43:55]. I think the concept has very specific meanings, so it will be interesting to see how this will evolve.
But the multiple [inaudible 00:44:06]. By the way, yes, here is a T-shirt that the participants have been using in Cairo and it's written in Arabic. You know, one Botagy and one Botaga. So one is male Botagy, and one is female Botagia. It's actually interesting because usually Botagy's are male, so it's not really of use to refer to women, but in this case, they are trying to abhor to them and try to use it. So we will see where that is going to take us.
The multiple and contradictory use of this term in several context and for different purposes have made it more complicated for the public to judge, whether those accuses of Botaga by politicians and media actually have anything to do have done anything illegitimate. My intellectuals in Zawia tended to listen to different opinions and then use their own judgment to evaluate such accusations. So the burden is actually on the person to decide for themselves who is the Botagy and who is not
They closely absorb the type of act committed, its location, the accused groups, and their history. The accused is in their relationship to the previous and current regime. And the TV images including the discord of the accused and accuser. For example, while we were watching news of the clashes next to the ministry of defense and advocacy, you may remember in July 2011, there was a move from Tahrir to a neighborhood [inaudible 00:45:29] to go to the ministry of defense to protest in front of it and that was a major transformation for the revolution. So there was these different accusations. The supreme council claimed that those who went to advocacy were actually Botagy. And those who went from Tahrir, they said, "No, these are actually revolutionaries like us and they want to assert and they will." So on TV, both sides are making totally exactly the opposite claims.
So what the ordinary viewers were doing is look at the different, observe the different images that were circulated, in particular, the facial features of those interviewed, their dress code, and ways of talking, as well as the methods used to vandalize cars, stores, and apartments. So now you have to really go deeper than what they are saying to try to look at the more subtle images themselves and see if that's going to give you any clues about what kind of judgment to make.
So sometimes, for instance, they dismiss the claims of some of the interviewed because they did not look respectable. And concluded that those who were attacked, surely those would attack beautiful apartments, nice cars, and fancy looking businesses. They can't possible be revolutionaries, they must be Botagy. And they were deliberately inciting violence.
Yet, the political leanings, which is a very interesting change I think in Zawia, the political leanings of men and women start exerting more and more influence on this process of interpretation. So when the term Botagy continues to refer to those who illegitimately deploy violence, local news are increasingly linked to national accusations and discourses.
Thus, those among my intellectuals who have Islamist leanings, tended to follow the line of Islamist leaders who accused those who remained in Tahrir, even now, as Botagy.
Others who were sympathetic to the army and thought as a source of legitimacy during this transitional period tended to accept the classification offered by the supreme council.
To conclude. I'm going to really be very briefly. While it's premature for us perhaps to say much more about the impact of all this contest, ambiguous nature of this concept and how it's going to redefine, perhaps, the categories that people use in Zawia. I don't want to push it more than that because as Sarah was saying, we try to understand and to try to really follow what happens, rather than just speaking about it.
The key point here is that people make a very clear distinction between illegitimate appropriated with violence and inappropriate uses of violence. And there is a very strong relationship between the kind of distinction, honor, and masculine identification that is conferred in individuals.
The very last thing I would like to say is to better understand the revolution is Egypt and elsewhere, the scholars need to look closely at the overlap, definitions, and contradictions between existing cultural forms, meanings, and values, and emerging political projects, goals, and movements.
As Williams intended with structures of feeling, my reflections in the notions of Bogata and Gadana illustrate how such categories and concepts have shaped the interpretation of significant events and the shifting feelings and views of ordinary Egyptians. Many of whom came to strongly embrace the revolution.
Looking at such categories and how they overlap with events and various locations enables us to capture the left sense of specific moments of political transformation, and how connections established between thoughts and feelings formed emerging meanings, past and present experiences, and local and national struggles have been centered to the inclusion of most Egyptians in the same political and moral projects.
Thank you for your patience.