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Session R4753 (Alternative Archives: New Approaches to Egypt's Modern History), 2017
Contemporary Egypt is riven by political polarization, particularly as it pertains to the question of religion and politics. While President 'Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi categorizes the Muslim Brotherhood a “terrorist” organization, the Brotherhood’s youth seek to resist this “tyrant” through violent means. In the midst of often-bloody battles, it is easy to forget how these competitors, now locked in a zero-sum game, once worked together to call Egyptians to piety under the rule of Anwar al-Sadat (1970-81).

How can we tell the story of this period of Egyptian history, known as the “Islamic Revival” (al-Sahwa al-Islamiyya)? The issue of this presentation is not the recent absence of the Egyptian National Archive (Dar al-Kutub), but rather, the longstanding active exclusion by archivists of periodicals published by the Muslim Brotherhood, the Jam?iyya Shar?iyya, and Ansar al-Sunna al-Muhamadiyya. By contrast, state-sponsored religious periodicals produced by the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs and the Islamic Research Academy at al-Azhar have long remained accessible. How can we tell a joint history of Islamic movements and state institutions in Egypt in the shadow of state archives that apply an ideological litmus test to preservation?

This presentation will discuss how I have brought together state-aligned and Islamist stories by drawing on varied library collections in the United States, archives elsewhere in the Middle East, publishing houses in the Persian Gulf, and selective use of recorded sermons preserved on www.archive.org. In particular, I will emphasize how critical use of Salafi, Muslim Brotherhood and State-aligned Islamic magazines reveals the social and intellectual history of religious change in 1970s Egypt. Specifically, it has enabled me to move away from a focus on self-declared “Islamist” or “State” spaces to trace the popularization of particular practices across Egyptian state and society. This story, in turn, illustrates the intellectual and sociological ties that bind Islamism and Secularism in Egypt, while broadening studies of Islamism that focus on an ostensibly parallel Islamist sphere of activism.