John D. Gerhart Center for Philanthropy and Civic Engagement

Author's Department

John D. Gerhart Center for Philanthropy and Civic Engagement and Responsible Business

Document Type

Research Article

Publication Title

Voices on Arab Philanthropy and Civic Engagement-Working Paper

Publication Date



Taking stock of recent developments in the field of philanthropy concerning the theme of Art for Social Change, this paper shall analyze the new cultural and artistic trends in civic participation and social engagement in Egypt that take their root well before the revolution and could be further emphasized following the Uprisings. The focus will be on new philanthropic orientations fostering community based cultural expressions rather than 'elitist' art forms or already recognized performing artists (concerts, opera, and blockbuster films). The past two years have witnessed a considerable number of artists, intellectuals and cultural activists being at the forefront of the protests. Much has been written on the new narratives produced in this period. The revolution’s most shared cultural products—from pictures to songs, murals to on-line cartoons or films, poetry or novels—have become a powerful soundtrack of the revolution. Yet, academicians and Arab philanthropists have shown little interest in supporting this new trend. How can creativity and the free cultural expressions that have been at the core of the Egyptian revolution be channeled into a new and participative public sphere? How can the basin of cultural users be enlarged within Egyptian society? What role should cultural activists play in supporting an open and participative society? What creative projects can be implemented to impact on social change? Through a comparison on how two private NGOs have shaped a new conception of cultural policy and their stances toward the Egyptian state, my paper intends to contribute to the international discussion related to the effects that art and culture bear on socio-economic transformation and cultures of sustainability, in particular on democratization processes, forms of political participation and social empowerment, political awareness and the forming of public opinion.

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