How did Ahmad Shafiq Succeed in the Egyptian Elections?

Wednesday March 2nd, 2011 was an historic night for Egyptian media in the midst of an historic period in Egyptian political life. Less than one month after Hosni Mubarak had stepped down from his thrity-year reign as President of Egypt, Prime Minister Ahmad Shafiq went on Egyptian news channel ON TV to debate noted author and liberal columnist, Alaa al-Aswany. In the days before the 2011 revolution, media engagements by government figures were done with pre-scripted questions and were tightly controlled. This program would have a different format. Continue reading

Egypt 101: Blood from a Stone

Egypt is among the world’s most densely populated countries.  This is not always immediately discernable through statistical analysis because the area included in the borders of the country are quite large, encompassing some 995,450 square kilometers. But if you look at a physical map of Egypt, like the one above, most of the landmass is covered by the scorched earth of the Sahara Desert. This vast expanse is gashed by the green Nile Valley—which opens at Cairo to fan out across the Delta to the Mediterranean Sea.  The vast majority of the country lives in this fertile escape from the desert— a cultivated area of some 6 million acres, or about 5 percent of the total land mass.[1]

For some 5,000 years of human history, highly-centralized states have manipulated the water that flows from this gash to control massive amounts of people and resources. But when deranged dictators get a taste for power, they are rarely satisfied until they engorge themselves. So from this gash has flown not only the life-giving waters of the Nile, but also the blood of the Egyptian people.When blood is allowed to fester over an open wound, a scab forms. And if a deep cut goes without proper treatment, the injury will never heal. Continue reading

JPMorgan’s $2 Billion blow-up

For the better part of the past four years, Jamie Dimon has been known as the “King of Wall Street.” The company he leads, JPMorgan Chase, emerged from the carnage of the 2008 financial crisis with two new acquisitions: Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual. It is the largest bank holding company by total assets in the world. According to Ezra Klein, Dimon has been using the political capital he built up during the crisis to fight against the Volcker Rule, part of recent financial regulation efforts:  “Paul Volcker by his own admission has said he doesn’t understand capital markets,” Dimon told Fox Business earlier this year. “He has proven that to me.”

And then, last night, Dimon announced that JPMorgan Chase had lost $2 Billion so far this quarter on some very big hedges. I find this story to be a very illuminating case-study in the volatility of the American economy at the present moment, so I want to highlight some important aspects of it in this post. Continue reading

Reading Marx on May Day

A contemporary drawing of Marx as a young man

The name “Karl Marx,” especially when heard by a U.S. citizen, conjures a variety of images, or perhaps none at all. Marx as a figure was an important sign for the Soviet Union, which established a state ideology in his name. The Soviet Union was the sworn enemy of the United States for most of my parents’ lives. They have told me stories of how, when they were 7 years old, they would have “atomic bomb drills” when they would all simulate what would happen if the Soviet Union dropped atomic weapons on them by hiding under their desks. Can you imagine the psychological impact that would have on a seven year-old?

But the Marx I am reading wrote long before there was such a thing as the Soviet Union. And in reading him, there are things I want to preserve and things I want to firmly reject. Nineteenth-century German idealist philosophers were not very concerned with being legible to the uninitiated. I think, perhaps, it is the difficulty in reading Marx that produced the abomination of the Soviet ideology. But, if you are willing to struggle through this complex text with me, I think we can come out on the other end with a good framework for understanding a lot of the events we see unfolding around us today. Continue reading

May 1st: Occupy Your Life

On November 4th, 2008, I found myself in a room full of my friends openly weeping. That was the night President Barack Obama was elected to office. I felt I had somewhat of a personal stake in the Obama campaign. That, and I was a little drunk. I don’t claim to be an activist, but I had read his books. I had donated to his campaign back in May of 2007 when it looked like Hillary would win the nomination. Most importantly, I had just gotten back from Egypt, where I had spoken to dozens of Egyptians who liked Obama. I thought his election would send a great signal to the world after 8 years of Bush.

Today, I find myself frustrated. Continue reading

Tragedy in Port Said: A Failure of the Police

The soccer riots which saw the death of at least 70 in Port Said this past Wednesday sparked protests in Cairo and Port Said in which at least 4 more have been killed and 700 injured. This senseless violence is difficult to comprehend, but taking a closer look at the long and complicated relationship between Egypt’s soccer clubs and the government can help to provide some context. James M. Dorsey, a Senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, has been keeping up with a very excellent blog on the Turbulent World of Mideast Soccer that is a great resource if you really want to dive into this subject. Continue reading

Women in the 2011 Egyptian Revolution and the Concept of Plural Modernities

Last week I wrote a post on the many different ways that people in the Middle East and throughout the formerly-colonized world understand and experience “modernity.” Today, I want to build on that concept by looking at three very different examples of women getting involved in the 2011 Egyptian revolution. Hopefully this exercise will not only help to expand our understanding of the plurality of modernities, but will also introduce some important issues about the Egyptian revolution and feminist consciousness in the Middle East. Continue reading

Happy 10th Birthday, Gitmo!

I wanted to do a special post today for the tenth anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo Bay detention camp, the extra-judicial facility where the United States government holds prisoners from the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. 779 prisoners have been held in Guantanamo Bay over the last decade. Exactly 6 have been charged of a crime. This post analyzes the legal issues surrounding Gitmo and finds that it is an illegal violation of the 5th amendment of the Constitution (“due process”). Continue reading

Persistence of the Peasantry and the Nature of the Modern Age

Kyle J. Anderson_Historiography of the Egyptian Peasant

As promised, here is an example of my work that I want to share with you. Click the link above if you are interested in checking it out. When historians speak of “historiography,” they are talking about the ways that other historians have written about a given subject in the past. For example, whereas early histories of the American Civil War might have focused on Abraham Lincoln’s desire to free the southern slaves because slavery was wrong, later histories have highlighted longer-term cultural trends that gradually led the north and the south in different, antagonistic directions. An historiographical essay studies the changes in how historians portray their subject matter. Smaller versions of these studies are also called “literature reviews.” Continue reading