- Fellowship Dates 2013-2013
- Research Topic The Artist: Sheikh Imam, His Songs and the Egyptian Revolution of 1911
- Fellow or Grant Type National Endowment for the Humanities
- Affiliation Post-doctoral candidate City University of New York Graduate Center, Hunter College
The role of popular culture in the Egyptian Revolution has been frequently commented on. Reflections on the topic rarely fail to mention two legends of the Egyptian protest music scene: the blind singer, lutist and composer, Sheikh Imam Aysa (1918-1995), and the poet most often associated with him, Ahmed Fouad Negm (b. 1929). Before the study of popular culture in the Arab world was as common as it is today, American and European scholars usually wrote about Sheikh Imam and Negm in the context of censorship and human rights. What scholarly work there is on the duo in the field of Arabic literature tended to focus on the poet Negm for obvious reasons. Noticeably, one of the many cultural results of the revolution has been a renewed interest in Sheikh Imam. This research examines how memories of Imam and his art have been utilized in the struggle, as well as in how his image has been changed in the process. It explores the rediscovery of Imam following the revolution, as well as a cinematic version of him in the feature film primarily about Negm, called al-Fagumi. This research studies memories of Sheikh Imam in light of current events, as he is re-remembered as a critical spark of the revolution. Since January 2011 there has been an explosion of Facebook pages dedicated to Sheikh Imam: more than 30 such pages – some with just a few members but others with tens of thousands of fans and contributors. The research contributes more broadly to literature on the role of music in social movements, as well as the body of writing on the impact of popular culture on nostalgia and the memory of historical events.