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Performing Piety

Singers and Actors in Egypt's Islamic Revival

By Karin van Nieuwkerk

Publication Year: 2013

Tracing the Islamization of Egyptian celebrities and their fans and the emergence of an Islamic aesthetics, this book offers a unique history of the religious revival in Egypt through the lens of the performing arts.

Published by: University of Texas Press


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p. C-C

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-viii

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pp. ix-xii

Herein I would like to thank many people who have been important sources of support and inspiration. I would like to ex-press my gratitude to all the people “in the field” who made this book possible. First of all, the artists and producers who gave their time and shared their thoughts with me. I hope I have conveyed their thoughts and stories correctly. I would also like to thank Amani and Hoda for their assistance in making appointments with artists and fans, digging in archival ...

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pp. 1-12

After conducting research in Egypt among singers and dancers of the Cairene street of entertainment, Muhammad ʿAli Street (Van Nieuwkerk 1995), I occasionally returned to visit friends. I particularly kept in contact with the family of my assistant Sayyid and my favorite dancer Ibtisam. After finishing fieldwork in 1989 I visited Ibtisam again in 1991. She was still active as a dancer in clubs and occasionally at weddings. She had tried to find other ways of earning money, for instance by ...

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Part One. The 1980s: Celebrating Piety

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pp. 13-21

Celebrities reflect, reinforce, and have the power to transform the social, political, and cultural context in which they live. They are icons and trendsetters. Stars are not only entertainers, but also idols, models, and educators. They celebrate and legitimate certain lifestyles. Celebrities thus have a great impact on public consciousness and debate. Celebrities and celebrity culture have a cultural pervasiveness and have become...

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1. Dreams, Spirituality, and the Piety Movement

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pp. 22-43

In this chapter, I will present the life story of former actress Shams al-Barudi. Her story exemplifies a spiritual trajectory toward a pious lifestyle in which dreams and visions play a key role. The role of visions and dreams in the pietization of everyday life more generally will be dealt with in the second section. The final section provides background information...

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2. Repentance, Daʿwah, and Religious Education

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pp. 44-66

In this chapter, I will introduce the story of former dancer Hala al-Safi, who left her “sinful profession” and opened a religious school. Her story of remorse will be used to analyze an important aspect of piety: repentance, which will be the central concept in the second section. In the final section, I will describe the development of core activities of the piety ...

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3. Veiling and Charity

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pp. 67-88

In this chapter, I will start with the life story of former singer Yasmin al-Khiyyam, who now runs a large charity organization. In the second part, I will discuss an important aspect of the trajectory toward piety for women—that is, veiling. Finally, I return to larger trends in the piety movement in Egypt and discuss the development of the Islamist parallel sector that provides religious service and charity....

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Part Two. The 1990s: Debating Religion, Gender, and the Performing Arts in the Public Sphere

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pp. 89-97

The early 1990s, and particularly 1992, were a turbulent period in Egyptian history. Egypt was targeted by a series of terrorist attacks on Copts, policemen, and foreign tourists. The writer Farag Fuda was assassinated in 1992. The moderate Muslim Brotherhood moved from the periphery to the center and enhanced its influence through electoral victories in professional groups such as the Lawyers Association, ...

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4. The Islamist (Counter)public

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pp. 98-120

In this chapter, I will open with the spiritual journey of actress ʿAfaf Shoʿib. Her story and those of other “repentant” artists became part of the Islamist press campaign against “the enemies of Islam.” The Islamist debates about art, gender, and religion will be the focus of the second part. In the third part, I will describe the relationship of Islamist actors and movements with the state in the early 1990s....

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5. The Secular Cultural Field

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pp. 121-145

This chapter features the life story of actress-comedienne Soheir al-Babli. The second section will follow the debates on the “repentant” artists, but now from the side of the secular press, which articulated its secular nationalist discourse by attacking the veiled artists. In the third section, the relationship between the Egyptian state and...

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6. Changing Discourses on Art and Gender

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pp. 146-174

In this chapter, I will present the life story of actress ʿAbir Sharqawi. In the second section, the religiously committed artists’ own views on gender, art, and religion will be central. In the final section, I will highlight the changing discourse on art within the Islamist movement more generally, which resulted from the fragmentation of religious authority and the emergence of young preachers....

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Part Three. The New Millennium: Performing Piety

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pp. 175-183

In Part Two, we have seen the immense debates that ensued in the public sphere about art and gender in the 1990s. It became a crucial way to discuss the imagined direction for the Egyptian nation. Also, Islamists realized the enormous power of art in transforming society and individuals. They reformulated ideas on art and started to use it as a mobilizing ...

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7. Art with a Mission and Post-Islamism

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pp. 184-205

In this chapter, the story of actress Miyar al-Bablawi will be portrayed. In the second section, the new discourse that developed around the turn of the century on “art with a mission,” which opened up the possibility of returning to art, will be detailed. In the last section, the transformation of the piety movement into “post-Islamism” and the emergence of...

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8. Halal Weddings and Religious Markets

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pp. 206-232

In this chapter, I will focus on the trajectory of male artists by presenting the story of singer Mustafa Mahmud. In the second section, I will present one of the ways the artists have come back to the field of religious art by examining the development of religious wedding bands and religious songs. In the final section, I will discuss the emergence of religious ...

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9. Ramadan Soaps and Islamic Aesthetics

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pp. 233-258

In this final chapter, I will go into some of the ambivalences and contradictions in the field of moral artistic practices. In the first section, I will present the life story of actress ʿAbir Sabri, who not only returned to art but eventually unveiled as well. In the second section, I will discuss the emergence of another genre of religious art production, that is,...

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pp. 259-274

Egypt is presently going through a turbulent time, full of potential and tensions. During the time of writing this book, I was only able to visit Egypt for a few days in October 2010 and December 2011. For that reason, I cannot go into all the current transformations in Egypt and what they mean for the Islamist movement and its art project, because the upheaval...


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pp. 275-290


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pp. 291-296


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pp. 297-310


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pp. 311-320

E-ISBN-13: 9780292745872
E-ISBN-10: 0292745877
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292745865
Print-ISBN-10: 0292745869

Page Count: 332
Illustrations: 13 photos
Publication Year: 2013