Scholars exploring digital media politics have frequently approached the topic along a polarity between two contradictory tendencies: the emancipatory potentials of digital media versus its authoritarian uses. In this presentation, Abdelmagid proposes an examination of digital politics instead along the analytic of temporality. Along this analytic, he proposes to think of digital publics as circulations animated by aspirations and promises, and to reimagine digital mediations as competing collective chronotopes tethered by antagonistic desires and hopes.
By ethnographically examining the cultural logics of the Egyptian state’s digital campaign, #ThisIsEgypt, Abdelmagid fleshes out these politics of temporality under authoritarianism in the neoliberal digital era. In 2015, the Egyptian government, animated by the aura of global digital media, launched its first ever international digital state-branding campaign, #ThisIsEgypt, in the aftermath of the 2011 revolution. The campaign relied on user-generated digital material to be promoted by Egyptian underground music networks. Although these underground networks are renowned for their revolutionary ethos, many chose to collaborate with the authoritarian state as an entrepreneurial tactic to expand their music businesses. In spite of their collaboration with the state, several of those musicians were arrested in 2018. In reaction, one arrested musician’s fan base called for prayers in a collective digital plea to God (rather than the state) to set the musicians free.
Drawing upon anthropology of time and global media studies, and by ethnographically excavating the creative briefs, social media leaks, digital glitches, and online religious performances, this talk pries open alternative understandings, not only of digital politics, but also of the contours of the political in neoliberal digital times.
Yakein Abdelmagid holds a Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from Duke University (July 2018). His research focuses on affective labor, digital creative industries, and radical media under authoritarianism in the Arab world. At the heart of his research agenda lies the issue of the state’s crisis in maintaining its hegemony over transnational cultural production in the digital age. In his work, he examines the cultural production of emerging youth networks and media industries that are uncontainable by the authoritarian state in urban Egypt. Yakein’s research as a postdoctoral fellow at CARGC at the Annenberg School for Communication will investigate the historical/ethnographic relationship between state-sponsored neoliberal entrepreneurship in the Arab world and the digital socialities that undergird publics conjured beyond the ambit of the state. His first book focuses on the independent music scene in urban Cairo, asking: How is Hope Mediated under Authoritarianism? Yakein’s scholarship aims to bring together bottom-up grounded media theory and ethnographic attention to non-western media phenomena. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Cairo, and studied Social Anthropology at the American University in Cairo. He is a co-founder of a music venue in Cairo, a graffiti group, and occasionally a software programmer.
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