CAIRO—What is the function of popular culture in Egypt today? Is it to show people themselves as they are, or to impose a national narrative? How should popular culture be understood, studied, conserved, and shared with the public?
And what is popular culture anyway? After all, as one of the participants in a recent symposium in Cairo, which raised these and many other questions, said: “It’s not like practitioners wake up in the morning and say, I’m going to go make some popular culture today.”
The two-day symposium, held January 17 and 18, was organized and hosted by the American Research Center in Egypt, a scholarly institution that supports conservation projects and awards fellowships and grants to conduct research on aspects of Egyptian history and culture.
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In one of the opening sessions, Mohamed Elshahed, the creator of the Cairobserver blog and the author of a new book on modern architecture in Egypt, and Marcia Lynx Qualey, the editor of the ArabLit website and quarterly magazine, discussed “producing knowledge for the public” with N.A. Mansour, a fellow with the nonprofit research center and an editor of the Hazine blog, which is dedicated to scholarly research on the Middle East and North Africa.