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Dramas of Nationhood

The Politics of Television in Egypt

How do people come to think of themselves as part of a nation? Dramas of Nationhood identifies a fantastic cultural form that binds together the Egyptian nation—television serials. These melodramatic programs—like soap operas but more closely tied to political and social issues than their Western counterparts—have been shown on television in Egypt for more than thirty years. In this book, Lila Abu-Lughod examines the shifting politics of these serials and the way their contents both reflect and seek to direct the changing course of Islam, gender relations, and everyday life in this Middle Eastern nation.

Representing a decade’s worth of research, Dramas of Nationhood makes a case for the importance of studying television to answer larger questions about culture, power, and modern self-fashionings. Abu-Lughod explores the elements of developmentalist ideology and the visions of national progress that once dominated Egyptian television—now experiencing a crisis. She discusses the broadcasts in rich detail, from the generic emotional qualities of TV serials and the depictions of authentic national culture, to the debates inflamed by their deliberate strategies for combating religious extremism.

Table of Contents

PART ONE Anthropology and National Media
1. Ethnography of a Nation
2. Interpreting Culture(s) after Television: On Method
PART TWO National Pedagogy
3. Rural "Ignorance" and the Virtues of Education
4. Development Realism, "Real Melodrama," and the Problem of Feminism
PART THREE The Eroding Hegemony of Developmentalism
5. Modern Subjects? Egyptian Melodrama and Postcolonial Difference
6. The Ambivalence of Authenticity: National Culture in a Global World
7. Managing Religion in the Name of National Community
8. Consumption and the Eroding Hegemony of Developmentalism
Conclusion: Star Magic and the Forms of National Affinity


American Ethnological Society: AES Senior Book Prize

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