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Lecture

February 8 Conference Questions.docx

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Department
Islamic Studies
Course
ISLA 210
Professor
Laila Parsons
Semester
Winter

Description
FEBRUARY 8, 2012: Conference  Film: FOUR WOMEN OF EGYPT: The movie is about four women, some were Muslim (one was very strict and traditional, ex. One wore a traditional headscarf, the other did not) and one was Christian (quiet, out of touch with the other women→ likely due to discomfort). They went back and forth between French (at least 2 of them spoke French), English, and Egyptian Arabic. The woman who only spoke French was elite (French school growing up), the woman who wore the scarf probably came from the upper middle class and her father could have been a doctor or an engineer. She would not have been elite because she didn’t go to French or English school, but she had some familiarity with the language.  Nariman Youssef saw the events that followed Mubarak’s resignation as equally as important as Tarir Square because it was a continuation→ change needs to occur after the resignation. The revolution was more about changing people than it was about governments. It was more internal than external (changing perspectives). 1) Leila Ahmed ties the effects of the Nasserist revolution (on her) to the Arabic language in an interesting way. Please read from page 147-148 where she talks about her experience with her Arabic teacher at school after Nasser has come to power. What do you make of this passage? What does it tell you about the link between Egyptian nationalism and language in general? And the link between language, Egypt, and the Palestine Problem in particular? She is describing her feelings at the time and providing background context on why the racism happens. She presents her feelings about learning Arabic as if it was fact, but it is her judgements through her own experience, not the language itself (ex. It is not just all about endless lists of grammar.) She talks a lot about her “Arabness” as well throughout the book. It holds negative connotations for Arabic, it is associated with ignorance, non-Europeanness, lower-class servants, it is associated with the uncivilized. Nasser was the great figure of Egyptian nationalism, and when he came into power he made Arabic mandatory in schools (an important step in Arab nationalism). Before that, the English or French schools operated as if they were in England or France. This policy was effective in uniting the population and it was a further step to eradicate the European presence and influence over Egypt→ created unity. Leila Ahmed didn’t have an Egyptian identity. (She spoke French with her nanny, English with her friends at school, and spoke Arabic with the servants and her family. She didn’t understand Turkish at all.) She is forced to choose between her identities and seems to choose English (an unconscious decision). She talks about an inferiority complex that she associates with Arabic, so she chooses to speak English. Her older brothers and sister choosing English and going to England before her influenced her decision. She identifies more with England, and she doesn’t know any Arabic literature at all, she only knows English authors because until Edward Said’s orientalism there was no discussion of “Arabness.” The languages are also associated with different cultures→ she is not just choosing between languages, she is choosing between cultures and lifestyles as well. It is significant that the teacher is a Palestinian because Nasser was really upset about Palestine and used it as a cause to rally around. It is important because she represents the European power and the fact that she knows European languages and not Arabic is a factor. Nasser cared about the Palestinian question because they were Arabs, and they weren’t Europeans, and it would be bad for pan-Arabism if they didn’t support Palestine and the Arabs
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