The Egyptian revolution: A triumph of poetry

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Middle East Studies Center

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Research Article

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American Ethnologist

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The 11-day interval between the fall of Tunisia's Ben Ali and the onset of the Egyptian revolution is now almost forgotten. These days were important mainly as the time when inspiration was nurtured and the big question on people's minds was, could a revolution happen in Egypt? Never before had this question been debated so intensely. I look at two contrasting ways of addressing it. On the one hand, seasoned political analysts (mostly political scientists) were predominantly saying no, Egypt is not Tunisia. On the other hand, activists were talking dreams and poetry, especially invoking lines from two famous Arab poets on the power of popular will and the inevitability of revolution. In this case, poetry prevailed. It was not only a source of inspiration but also carried more explanatory power than much social science. Here I document this moment and pay tribute to poetry and dreams. [Egypt, revolution, Tunisia, poetry, experts]. © 2012 by the American Anthropological Association.

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