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Invisible Armies: Reflections on Egyptian Dreams of War

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 March 2012

Amira Mittermaier*
Department for the Study of Religion, University of Toronto


In January 2011, people around the world turned their attention to Cairo's Tahrir Square. The news network al-Jazeera quickly became a window onto the square and surrounding streets, and news reporters became eyewitnesses to historical events. Aware of the media spectacle unfolding around them, Egyptian protesters over the following weeks held up signs in Arabic and English and, maybe unknowingly, staged highly photogenic scenes, for instance when Christians formed a human chain to guard Muslims during their prayers, and vice versa. During the first few days of the uprising, the regime shut down cell phone and Internet networks to prevent activists from communicating, but it could not stop their taking pictures and filming with cell phones and cameras. Every moment was carefully recorded, and today multiple initiatives are collecting films, photos, and audio recordings to preserve them in digital archives. In July 2011, activists set up an open-air cinema at Tahrir Square to screen and discuss footage of the protests. Subsequently video materials became crucial pieces of evidence in the courtroom where the former President Mubarak and ex-Interior Minister Adly were being tried. The Egyptian revolution was a highly visible and “mediatized” event. Its history can and has been told in images.

Research Article
Copyright © Society for the Comparative Study of Society and History 2012

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