Saturday, November 2, 2013

Happiness: An Abstract Concept in Post-Revolutionary Egypt.

By: Lara Al Huneidi, Farah Moustafa and Salma El Saeed. 

“Inti Mabsouta? Revolutionary Experiments in the Pedagogy of Visual Ethnography” Lecture at AUC

CAIRO, Egypt- In a lecture held at The American University in Cairo (AUC), Assistant Professor Dr. Mark Westmoreland discussed an experiment a group of his students conducted by asking Egyptians “Are you happy?”

The lecture, entitled “Inti Mabsouta? Revolutionary Experiments in the Pedagogy of Visual Ethnography,” took place on Tuesday, October 30th at the Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology, and Egyptology (SAPE) seminar room at AUC.

While teaching a Visual Anthropology seminar during the Fall 2012 semester at AUC, Westmoreland started this experiment in response to a widespread interest he realized his students had in recording post-revolutionary times. He instructed his students to film a variety of Egyptians responding to the question “Are you happy?” 

“Most [students] were interested in some aspect of the revolution,” Westmoreland said. “This idea of ‘thinking with a camera in revolutionary times’ was sort of the…subtitle of this course,” he added.

Westmoreland said that, due to the precarious period of political transition Egypt is currently in, many Egyptians were suspicious of the students’ intentions and agendas. 

“Having a camera instantly gave us a political position,” he said.

Westmoreland was inspired to start the experiment by two French films, “Chronique D'un Été” (1961) and “Le Joli Mai” (1963), both of which documented everyday life in Paris during a critical political time. Similarly, the projects Westmoreland’s students completed took place during November of last year, close to the anniversary of the Mohamed Mahmoud clashes.

Although the footage Westmoreland collected from his students’ projects recorded a unique moment in the political transition in Egypt, he said that the experiment, in its current form, is not complete.

“It would be really valuable to have an extended project, even for decades, perhaps…it would create an incredible archive," Westmoreland said.

However, while Westmoreland recognizes the value of creating a linear video by documenting the change of atmosphere in Egypt during the 10 years or so following the January 25th Revolution, he plans on completing the experiment by the beginning of next year.

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