In this thesis I would like to explore the notion of friendship in contemporary Egypt, as a contingent relationship born and maintained among various conditions of political, economic and urban precarity and uncertainty. Particularly, I'm interested in looking at the affective and creative modes of attachment, relating and belonging that people constantly invent and experiment with, when life is too messy for categories to hold. By following, tracing and accompanying friends and networks of friendship emerging in and across the biggest two cities of Egypt; Cairo and Alexandria, my goal is to co-construct an ethnography about the contemporary meanings, forms and purposes of friendship among young Egyptians. What can the relationships of friendship do, is the main question running throughout this work. My aim is to provide a rich ethnographic contribution to the existing anthropological literature on Egypt, by focusing on intimacy, co-existence and companion-ship. This ethnography is founded on multiple co-constitutive conversations, virtual, theoretical and abstract on one hand and real, fleshy, bodily on another. The aim is to renew and revive the question of “what can friendships do” (Foucault), while lending this textual space as a window for possible answers and articulations. From various chats, encounters and talks with friends a particular portray of friendship, its meaningful presence or rather absence emerged as a possibility of a gathering ‘around’ something yet not under, a co-constitutive entanglement, a relationship that at best does not aim to crush, constrain or fix roles of the subjects involved. This perhaps could be read as a line of continuity from the many lines that Foucault’s question inspired; What could be played? (1981). Yet I would like to repeat over and over the term “possibility” and stretch it to also admit the impossibilities and the limits of friendship. I imagine the possibility as the dots between and… and… and (Deleuze & Guattari 2004: 27), which is precisely the open-endedness that wants to free itself from predetermined before(s) and after(s). This is not to say that friendship does not seek consistency or does not involve dreams of futures of togetherness and safe, ideal and steady life-long relations of companionship. Yet there is a lot to be said about ideas and imaginations of the “future” when one does not have much luxury to maintain a slot in the present. It is precisely the acute presence of conditions of precarity (political, economic social, infrastructural) that drives the myriad creative, inventive and radical negotiations and variations of subjects on “how/where to go next?” The questions that my thesis attempts to open up are rather focused on the “affective” negotiations, in other words re-workings, reconfigurations and re-makings of ideas and practices of relations, socialities and intimacies between friends.
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Sociology, Egyptology & Anthroplology Department
MA in Sociology-Anthropology
Committee Member 1
Committee Member 2
Institutional Review Board (IRB) Approval
Approval has been obtained for this item
(2018).Migrating birds, dwelling friends: On the radical possibilities of friendship [Master's Thesis, the American University in Cairo]. AUC Knowledge Fountain.
Mohsen, Soha. Migrating birds, dwelling friends: On the radical possibilities of friendship. 2018. American University in Cairo, Master's Thesis. AUC Knowledge Fountain.