Uprisings spread like wildfire across the Arab world from 2010 to 2012, fueled by a desire for popular sovereignty. In Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, and elsewhere, protesters flooded the streets and the media, voicing dissent through slogans, graffiti, puppetry, videos, and satire that called for the overthrow of dictators and the regimes that sustained them.
Investigating what drives people to risk everything to express themselves in rebellious art, The Naked Blogger of Cairo uncovers the creative insurgency at the heart of the Arab uprisings. While commentators have stressed the role of social media, Marwan M. Kraidy shows that the essential medium of political expression was not cell phone texts or Twitter but something more fundamental: the human body. Brutal governments that coerced citizens through torture and rape found themselves confronted with the bodies of protesters, burning with defiance and boldly violating taboos. Activists challenged authority in brazen acts of self-immolation, nude activism, and hunger strikes. The bodies of dictators became a focus of ridicule. A Web series presented Syria’s Bashar al-Assad as a pathetic finger puppet, while cartoons and videos spread a meme of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak as a regurgitating cow.
The rise of digital culture complicates our understanding of the human body in revolutionary times. As Kraidy argues, technology publicizes defiance, but the body remains the vital nexus of physical struggle and digital communication, destabilizing distinctions between “the real world” and virtual reality, spurring revolutionary debates about the role of art, and anchoring Islamic State’s attempted hijacking of creative insurgency.
“Marwan Kraidy’s The Naked Blogger of Cairo: Creative Insurgency in the Arab World is a deep dive into the cultural politics of the Arab uprisings… Kraidy’s sharp insights and rich descriptions of a new Arab generation’s irrepressible creative urges will amply reward the effort. Reading Kraidy’s accounts of the politically charted cultural gambits of wired Arab youth rekindles some of the seemingly lost spirit of the early days of the Arab uprisings and offers hope for the future.”—Marc Lynch, The Washington Post
“The Naked Blogger of Cairo is an astonishingly accessible work for one that is also deeply intellectual and scholarly… Kraidy combines intellectual erudition with style and wit… The Naked Blogger of Cairo is a superb and important work not just for scholars but for anyone who cares about the relationships between art, the body, and revolution.”—Hans Rollman, PopMatters
“The Naked Blogger of Cairo is yet another testament to the range and ingenuity of Marwan Kraidy’s scholarship. He is without a doubt our most insightful critic of Arab media, and this book is essential reading for our times.”—Michael Curtin, University of California, Santa Barbara
“In The Naked Blogger of Cairo, Marwan Kraidy offers a fascinating account of the workings of power and resistance in a digitally connected Middle East that will shake confidence in conventional narratives about the cultural dynamics of the Arab uprisings. It is an original contribution and essential reading for those who want to move beyond clichéd frames and facile analyses.”—Mohamed Zayani, Georgetown University