A "real man", while Egypt falls apart

By Maria Malmström
Submitted to Session P4938 (Gendering the Body in the Middle East, 2017 Annual Meeting
LCD Projector with Audio Patch or Speakers;
This talk deal with particular aspects of making and unmaking masculinities and religious identities through the lens of affective politics in Egypt. I argue that the contemporary military-led state of Egypt has harnessed potent forces of affect in ways that continue to mediate political and religious consciousness and masculine bodies, beginning with a number of strategies seen from the summer of 2013 onward. Although in many ways a continuation of earlier military governments, the current state has not only succeeded in wielding these strong material and affective forces, but also in partly (especially in the beginning) satisfying the widespread desire for stability these forces have evoked, in part by reproducing a neo-patriarchal state that is seen as defending national interests, playing on recognizable gender structures and heteronormative expectations and demands of masculinity (which also intersect in important ways with religious imaginaries, bodies and identities). In doing so, the state has both materialized its presence in Cairo and provoked still more powerful desires for individual and collective safety, stability, and comfort, transforming former neighbors with different religious orientations into enemies, “non-men” and terrorists. One of the most important elements of this strategy has been the creation of a “masculine soundscape” by the military, especially from 2013 to the present. The military use of acoustic vibrations, appears to have deeply molded male bodies, evoking in them powerful responses that continue to play a unique role in the city's affective politics. These materialized experiences are connected to how gendered bodies are produced, remade, expressed, and negotiated. However, the current public affect lack of energy and sense of loss, in combination with a paranoid military dictatorship’s tactics to control its citizens via a collapse of the everyday economy and a total repression of political bodies, especially male bodies, produce a public depression and an everyday anxiety, that may mold masculine bodies differently. Upon reaching subjects or objects, all these forces are experienced seemingly without mediation, but they in fact carry discursive codes embedded by the myriad forces that shaped them in their travels through various inanimate and human bodies. This multifaceted and constant interaction helps us to see how very fragile even seemingly solid constructions of subjectivity are, as well as, to understand the production of masculinities as an open-ended life process, actively shaped by both agency and victimhood.