Monday, 27 January 2014

Postcolonialism and the Egyptian Dilemma

Hamid Dabashi is one of my favorite authors. His writing prowess is exemplary. I love the way he brings out the rich history of Iranian poetry and literary discourses. The Iranian born guru in Iranian Studies and Comparative literature has written and published an array of academic works in subjects ranging from Iranian Studies, medieval and modern Islam, comparative literature, world cinema, and the philosophy of art (trans-aesthetics). His latest book "The Arab Spring: The End of Postcolonialim" which I read last year provides insights to the Arab Awakening which began in early 2011. The Arab Spring, as it has come to be known started from street protests in Tunisia due to the rising living costs. A young vegetable trader then set himself on fire in act of protest leading to the steamrolling of the protests to many Arab and North African states. The protests saw the ousting of long standing regimes such as that of Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen, Libya's Muammar Gaddafi and Zine El Bedine Ben Ali who was first to run to exile in Saudi Arabia. Hamid Dabashi uses the postcolonial narrative to explain the events of the Arab Spring which three years down the line continue to shape global politics. Renowned Postcolonial theorist Achille Mbembe postulates that what characterizes postcolonial thinking is entanglement and concatenation, unveiled chiefly through its critique of identity and subjectivity which Dabashi also stresses in his book. Dabashi shows how the Arab Spring has altered the geopolitics of the region so radically that we must begin re-imagining the moral map of “the Middle East” afresh.

The Egyptian Revolution of January 25, 2011 saw the end to a thirty year old dictatorial regime of Hosni Mubark, the rapid transition of the country to democracy which has by now been overshadowed by the fall of Mohamed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood President elected in a popular vote in June 2012. Continued street protests in Cairo and many other cities across Egypt saw Morsi ousted by the army. This begs the question of what the future holds for Egypt. Egyptian voters overwhelming approved the new constitution in a referendum early January, 2014 with a whooping 98.1%. The new constitution replaces the one imposed by Mohamed Morsi and sees a number of crucial reforms such as presidential term limits, equality between men and women and the ban of ethnic, religious or gender based political parties. 

It is evident that postcolonial discourse is a crucial ingredient to the metamorphism of the Egyptian state and the Arab world as a whole with the revolutions happening there. And as Mbembe observes; postcolonial thinking stresses humanity-in-the-making, the humanity that will emerge once the colonial figures of the inhuman and of racial difference have been swept away. What is happening in Egypt epitomizes Mbembe's thinking. Egypt serves as a mirror to what other African countries will face before they evolve and consolidate democracy. 

For more hindsight to the Arab Spring and Postcolonialism discourse read The Arab Spring: The End of Postcolonialism by Hamid Dabashi. 

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