Creating alternative visions of Arab society: emerging youth publics in Cairo

Shannon Arvizu

How can we account for the development and maintenance of civic publics created for alternative realms of discourse within a censored media field? How do we explain the form, function and strategies of publics that are neither subaltern nor elite? What characteristics facilitate the use and consumption of new media (in this case, desktop publishing) to express views counter to state-run media? Youth publics provide a rich case for understanding how social class and linguistic capital are effectively utilized to create civic ‘networks of publicity’ within such contexts. While it could be argued that the relatively small sphere of influence of youth publics in Cairo, especially those linked by publications intended for an English-language audience, is sufficient to explain why authorities would allow such publics to exist, this position ignores the potential of youth-initiated and youth-run media in the region to stimulate critical discussions about their society and their role as citizens. In order to understand how youth publics emerge, and how the development of new communication channels among young people can be viewed as a form of activism, the experiences of editors and writers of youth magazines in Cairo are presented and analysed. First, to understand youth publics more broadly, this case is situated within the theoretical framework provided by Emirbayer and Sheller (1998). I argue that the intermediary opening position discussed by Emirbayer and Sheller helps to explain the emergence of youth civic publics in Cairo. Second, I posit that education and class facilitate the development and maintenance of youth civic publics. Third, I present data from interviews with youth writers and editors to understand the structural opportunities available to create publics. Fourth, I conduct a frame analysis of these publications to illustrate how consensual notions of identity, the youth civic role, and views towards the state are constructed within these publics. Lastly, I speculate on the durable influence of such publics on young people’s present and future civic development.
Media, Culture & Society © 2009 SAGE Publications (Los Angeles, London, New Delhi and Singapore), Vol. 31(3): 385–407 [ISSN: 0163-4437 DOI: 10.1177/0163443709102712]


Media, Culture & Society 31(3)

This work is important for placing in perspective research that focuses on other aspects of contemporary youth politics in the Middle East, such as militant Islam or the ‘new piety’ conservative religious movement (Bayat, 1997, 2003; Martinez, 2000; Miliani, 2003; Willis, 2000). Rather than focus on subversive political movements or religious-cultural movements, we bring attention to civic discussions found in youth culture magazines. The editors and writers of youth magazines seek to create alternative public communication networks for critical discussions about state and society. They are a form of democratic media activism (DMA) in that they exist to establish flows of communication among young people that engender specific collective orientations about themselves, their civic roles, and views about the government. In developing a space for young people to consider alternative visions of Arab and Egyptian society based on their own unique perspectives, editors and writers of youth publics intend to contribute to the civic socialization of their readers and influence their present/future perspectives and actions.

Publics research Since Jürgen Habermas introduced the notion of the public sphere into academic dialogue (1989), scholars have offered several criticisms and suggestions to improve the analytical worth of this concept (Calhoun, 1992; Cohen and Arato, 1992; Emirbayer and Sheller, 1998; Fraser, 1992). For Habermas, the public sphere is defined as a communicative space for rational-critical discourse about public issues by private persons. His argument is based on the belief that a public sphere of sufficient quantity and quality is a precondition for the existence of a democratic polity. Habermas lists a set of criteria for assessing the quality of an ideal public sphere, which for him, is exemplified by 17th-century British and French bourgeois men who gathered in coffeehouses to critique the state and demand political inclusion. This notion is limiting, however, because it assumes that there is a specific model of government that derives from a specific public sphere formation that should be generalizable to other cases. Furthermore, Habermas ignores the possibility of multiple publics, the presence of both strong and weak publics, and the relationship between the two (Fraser, 1992: 137). In order to remedy these shortcomings, Emirbayer and Sheller (1998) provide a terminology and a rigorous framework that incorporates many of the criticisms levied against Habermas and adopts a relational approach to more accurately reflect the existence of a multiplicity of publics. They believe, like Calhoun (1992), that ‘civil society’ is a master concept used to refer to social life that is distinct from the government or the economy. The ‘public sphere’ refers to a narrower mode of association than civil society. Following Cohen and Arato, public sphere associations arise through ‘open communication and popular participation through which alternative directions for social life are collectively

is characterized by a subversive approach. although we may treat each type of public as analytically distinct from one another. A subaltern public.’ in pursuit of influence over issues of common concern. Emerging youth publics in Cairo 387 reflected upon and adjudicated’ (Emirbayer and Sheller. recognizing that they vary widely ‘in scope. Power asymmetries among publics are classified as: subaltern. and generate psychical ‘working alliances. or ‘networks of publicity’. size. and timing’ and are ‘dynamic and interactional. sufficient attention is given to the diversity of actors and practices among multiple publics. These publics communicate through official and mainstream publications. formulate collective orientations. economic or civic public. Emirbayer and Sheller offer the following definition of publics: Open-ended flows of communication that enable socially distant interlocutors to bridge social-network positions. and civic publics include those voluntary associations that are engaged in reflexive communication about themselves and their role towards societal institutions. Political publics include political clubs or associations. The . Modes of communication are denoted by: face-to-face. In order to understand the intermediary opening public. intermediary openings and elite. An elite public is associated with the higher echelons of the established power structure of a given society. This conceptual framework takes into consideration power differentials among publics. be it a political. Such publics might rightly be called ‘counterpublics’. the term ‘publics’. reified entities’ (1998: 738). They engage in resistance tactics and communicate with one another via underground communication networks. but rather. and the political. Thus. This is a particularly salient concept when examining the specific case in this article. as the popular ‘public sphere’ idea suggests. are composed of high-status members and engage in symbolic civil rituals. as utilized in the present article reflects this reformulation. She brings attention to the importance of ‘linguistic capital’ for creating and participating in a public. economic or civic realms. in actuality there is often an overlap of strategies and goals. economic publics refer to those groups that are concerned with the relationship between the economy and civil society. varying modes of communication. The important point to note is that while publics have organized in response to certain developments in the political. Nancy Fraser also notes that: ‘actors communicate in different ways depending upon their gender. it is necessary to examine the ways in which such publics differ from subaltern or elite publics. economic and civic fields from which publics emerge and which they hope to influence. Emirbayer and Sheller draw upon Harrison White’s contribution on the interstitial nature of publics. Lastly. 1998: 737). rather than single. ethnicity. they often direct their efforts towards multiple institutional domains. interstitial networks of individuals and groups acting as citizens. race. Publics are not simply ‘spaces’ or ‘worlds’ where politics is discussed. and cultural backgrounds’ (1992: 132). In this reformulation. class. (1998: 741) Thus.Arvizu. locally mediated and time-space distanced.

at least implicitly. Downing et al. 1998: 743) I focus on civic publics that are time-space distanced. publics which take the form of ‘publicity through alternative press and independent publishers’. 2003: 7). publicly-owned media’. 2001. print has been used as a vehicle for communicating alternative discourse by several constituencies interested in stimulating social. and democratization of the media themselves’ (2006: 84). actual concentrations of media power. characterized by ‘democratization through the media (the use of media … to promote democratic goals and processes elsewhere in society). Historically. 2003. They describe such activism as ‘emergent movement praxis’. bodily self-fashioning’. I examine civic publics that fall into the intermediary opening position. (3) time-space distanced: ‘Publicity through alternative press. independent publishers. For clarity. including ‘building independent.388 Media. 1996). that is. we gain a unique perspective on how intermediary opening publics develop and strive to stimulate change. The political significance and potential of DMA lies in its distinctive action repertoire.. They view DMA as a new type of social movement. It is a ‘reflexive form of . 2006. (Emirbayer and Sheller. The potential of alternative media as a form of activism has been discussed by several researchers (Carroll and Hackett. Downing et al. Couldry and Curran. alternative lifestyles. I will present the operational definition that Emirbayer and Sheller use to characterize the specific modes of communication for a civic intermediary opening public: A civic intermediary opening public has the following communication forms: (1) face-to-face: ‘Publicity through reflexive self-presentation. democratic and participatory media’ to give voice to politically excluded actors ‘through communication channels independent of state and corporate control’ (2006: 89). whatever form those concentrations may take in different locations’ (Couldry and Curran. political or cultural change. Carroll and Hacket identify predominant forms of action to democratize communication. In a review of alternative press in Europe and in the US since the 1500s. Carroll and Hacket (2006) call these types of communication networks democratic media activism (DMA). Culture & Society 31(3) intermediary opening public represents the middle position on the axis of power. (2) locally mediated: ‘Submerged networks and multi-organizational fields of new social movements’. conclude that: ‘We see some of the most significant historical illustrations of the power that radical media may exert despite their small size and sometimes their very gradual transformation of the status quo’ (2001: 143). By focusing on emerging independent print media used for civic discourse. Melucci. Alternative media is ‘media production that challenges. In this research.

Youth publics are defined by flows of public communication relating to civic issues among young people between the ages of 18–30. especially those of the ‘middle. rather than organizing for other ends. the only media available for the distribution of information that is not produced by the state. However. New Media in the Muslim World: The Emerging Public Sphere. New media composes. bourgeois classes’. contribute significantly to reimaging Middle Eastern politics and religion’ (Eickelman and Anderson. Eickelman’s depiction of what he calls ‘small media’ in the region points to their potential for carving out a space for discussion that erodes the legitimacy of the state and creates alternative visions of society. 1995: 6). combined with the multiplication of agency facilitated by rising education levels.… Their natural home is the emerging middle. for example. have been instrumental in the development of alternative media in the region. Emerging youth publics in Cairo 389 activism that treats communication as simultaneously means and end of struggle’ (2006: 96). 2003). Emerging intermediary opening publics in the Arab-Muslim region present an intriguing case for examining how economic and linguistic capital are used to create reflective and critical realms of discourse within a constricted media sphere. because senders and receivers have far more in common. the new technologies of communication. In a recent compilation entitled. but their efforts are focused on creating communication forms. He writes: ‘Through fragmenting authority and discourse. in many countries. bourgeois classes of the Muslim world’ (2003: 9).Arvizu. Within youth culture. Young people. It is especially interesting to analyse the ways that citizens pursue DMA in media-censored regions. an inclusive term that relates to various aspects of cultural production by and for young people (Amit-Talai and Wulff. Youth publics are particularly well situated to enable an understanding of the motives and strategies involved in creating new forms of DMA. Simply creating alternative communication networks is a primary goal for emerging publics in these contexts. in Homegirls in the Public Sphere (Miranda. These actors build independent forms of media as a way to stimulate thought and discussion that could lead to larger change. not just in interests but also in cultural style and social position. Such is the case. Youth publics are a part of youth culture. Eickelman and Anderson write: ‘New media refigure audiences as communities. 1997: 73). 2003: 42). It is meant for both civic reflection on their role in society as well as a means for communicating the . Class and education account for both the economic and cultural capital (in terms of language skills and market/technical savvy) needed to create a viable public through the use of new media. youth publics assess and challenge established civic identities and roles. access to new media is far from universal. Youth culture is an evolving landscape that ‘marks out different relationships to the dominant ideologies and values of society’ (Wyn and White. This book looks at the use of film by young Mexican-American gang women to convey a more accurate portrayal of their life (versus that portrayed in mainstream culture).

developmentally.or Europeanbased curriculum and language of instruction because it is believed these institutions provide a form of education that is of a higher quality than that provided by the state (Cochran. 2003: 4–5). However. 1999: 32). exemplified here by emerging youth publics in Cairo. The role of education and class in the emergence of intermediary opening publics in Egypt Emerging intermediary opening youth publics in Cairo are composed mostly of upper middle-class young people who have graduated from or currently attend private educational institutions that adopt an American or European curriculum and English as the medium of instruction (Arvizu. . What remains to be seen is how we can account for the development and maintenance of an intermediary opening civic public.390 Media. to describe the influence of this economic upsurge on their upbringing. 2004). The growth of this demographic – English-speaking Arab youths – is a result of historical trends in the Arab region (Waterbury. Migration and employment in the Gulf region during the ‘oil boom’ era of the 1970s and the ‘Open Door’ economic policies of Anwar Sadat contributed to the emergence of a nouveau riche segment of the population (Mitchell. Private education in Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab region. from kindergarten to university level. has become popular among the nouveau riche segment of the population because it is believed that only with a quality. Western-style education can a young person expect to find a well-paying job. Youth publics are also ideally suited for this type of analysis because. 2004). young adulthood is a crucial period for identity formation and civic socialization (Rebenstorf. Culture & Society 31(3) multi-faceted gang culture to which they belong. By focusing on youth culture publications. Through a closer examination of the specific case below. we analyse how young people use this form of communication to assess the power structure within their larger society and create consensual notions of identity and civic roles. the ‘Oil Boomers’. and how these publics attempt to bridge audiences while simultaneously navigating the censored media field. the classification schema that Emirbayer and Sheller provide proves to be analytically advantageous for explaining the form. social class and education. Studying the ways young people interpret the social world through the medium of youth publics provides a speculative glimpse into their future perspectives and strategies of civic engagement. one young person in this study termed his cohort. 1992). As such. it is important also to take into consideration specific characteristics of publics that facilitate the use of intermediary opening communication forms – in this case. Most students enrolled in these institutions are the children of the nouveau riche. These parents send their children to private schools with an American. function and strategies of contemporary youth civic publics in Cairo.

structural opportunities and strategies necessary to create and maintain youth publics. which included a description of lifestyles/subcultures. In 1990. In this analysis. 2004). only three private foreignlanguage universities in existed in Egypt. we look at how linguistic and economic capital can be used to bridge class boundaries. as prescribed by Emirbayer and Sheller: An important challenge for empirical research is thus to show how practical maneuvering within and across publics. Studying youth publics in Cairo Data-gathering for this work took place in two phases.1 I have taken care to pay attention to the form. rather than reify them. marriage/dating. Campus began publication in 1999 and is a forerunner in the development of English-language youth culture magazines. Emerging youth publics in Cairo 391 The rise in demand for this type of education is reflected in the steady annual increase in student enrollment at the American University in Cairo (and in the construction of a larger campus to accommodate more students in 2008). These universities are known for cultivating a certain habitus and linguistic capital that professional employers look for (Barsoum. (1998: 763) I conducted interviews with writers and editors from five youth publications to gauge the motivations. These publications (Campus. The first phase of data collection (2002–4) was for an ethnographic study of upper middle-class youths in Cairo. 2004). publications. took place in the summer of 2006. Ego and Al-Waqe’) represent the current development of youth publics in Cairo because each was created at different times and for varying reasons. when I focused exclusively on youth culture publications.Arvizu. media representations. politics. takes advantage of structural opportunities for breaking old ties or for fashioning new social-network ties. and a survey analysis of youth views towards the family. Although teen and comic magazines were in existence before . we see a development over time of publics originally linked by publications intended for an upper middle-class and Western-educated audience to later include non-English-speaking young people who do not share the same socioeconomic background. The findings presented in this work are based on interviews with youth magazine editors and writers. Barsoum argues that English-language universities contribute to the reproduction of class status in the Bourdieusian notion of the term (Bourdieu. generational consciousness. There are now 15 such institutions. Gmag. Ihna. as well as in the proliferation of several other Western-style university and secondary institutions in recent years. of youth publics. organizations. which forms the basis for the present study. and a frame analysis of articles within these publications. symbolic alignments. In the evidence provided below. and psychical resonances among previously unallied actors. The second phase. 1984). in addition to rational critical deliberation and discourse. as well as the content. and gender (Arvizu.

the New Youth Paper (a monthly social awareness newspaper). four Egyptian public universities. This publication represents the ‘new generation’ of youth magazines that aspires to a larger age-group audience. who frequent cafes advertised in these magazines. a women’s fashion magazine. These networks are locally mediated through youth locales or through youth organizations/conferences where magazines are distributed/sold. they had printed their fourth issue (with a monthly distribution of 5000 copies). based at the American University in Cairo (AUC). occurs through the adoption of clothing styles. intended to promote youth social events) and Ihna in 2005 (‘Us’. The same group of young people (known as Core Publications) also started Gmag in 2003 (a pocket-sized events calendar. This loose network consists of young people who read English (and the youth-dialect of Egyptian Arabic). geared to teen girls). and several secondary institutions). bars/lounges/clubs). and bodily self-fashioning’. in most cases) in youth locales (cafes. with an emphasis on teen pop culture and teen psychological development).000. Culture & Society 31(3) this time (almost all in Arabic).392 Media. alternative lifestyles. the Cairo International Model Arab League. Maskoff (a youth lifestyle magazine). who participate in conferences and organizations featured as news stories in magazines. At the time of research. actual readership numbers are estimated to be higher because youth magazines are usually shared among friends or put on magazine racks for public reading in cafes). Together. Al-Waqe’ (‘The Reality’) began publishing in 2004 and represents a bi-lingual magazine (English and Arabic) created by a youth organization. I posit that the growth in the total number of youth culture magazines between 1999 (n = 2). eight institutions outside of Egypt. Ego began publication in 2006.000 copies a month (Campus – 10. along with mass distribution (for free. who attend both public and private universities and secondary schools throughout Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab region (in 2006. Other publications include TeenStuff (a magazine tailored towards a younger audience. This publication is distributed primarily to members. TeenCleo (a sister publication of Cleo. Desktop publishing and the formation of youth alternative press. lifestyle . Face-to-face mediation. Kallimitna (the Arabic version of TeenStuff). and Ihna – 7000. who buy the clothing advertised in magazines and/or who attend the parties captured in pictures in magazines. publications geared specifically to a college and young adult audience were not on the market. enable these publics to cross the time-space distanced networks that Emirbayer and Sheller refer to. Core Publications prints 29. Gmag – 12. an Arabic-language magazine intended to reach non-English-speaking youth audiences). 2004 (n = 6) and 2006 (n = 10) is an indication that the conversations found in these publications are salient for an increasing number of young people. clothing stores. Al-Waqe’ was distributed on a bi-annual basis to 700 delegates from four Egyptian private universities. described by Emirbayer and Sheller as ‘publicity through reflexive self-presentation. and Cilantro Central magazine (a magazine created and distributed by a cafe chain that caters to a youth clientele).000. Although I do not include an analysis of all youth publications on the market.

Ego and AlWaqe’. Although a systematic analysis of consumption practices and reader interpretations of youth magazines is not presented in this work. The editor of Campus says: Our magazine came out of wanting to create something for which nothing existed before. The founder of Ego believes that other magazines in Egypt do not accurately reflect the nature of the society they live in. four copies of each publication were available for analysis at the time of data collection. She says: ‘I felt they [in the magazine . A discussion of how each statement was coded is explained in the presentation of the frame analysis in a later section. Emerging youth publics in Cairo 393 behaviors and language use (as promoted through youth publications) that are signifiers of belonging to this network. This data is based on four different issues of each publication.Arvizu. who have the money and who have the resources. the youth role in society and views towards the state. the consensus that emerges is (1) they are creating a civic public for upper middle-class and Western-style educated youth where none existed before. When speaking to editors and writers about their motivations to create youth publics. Ego (as a relatively new youth magazine) and Al-Waqe’ (as a student organization youth magazine) for a frame analysis to examine how youth culture magazines operate as youth publics. Campus (as an established youth magazine). politics and local culture/history. Structural opportunities for creating youth publics Emirbayer and Sheller call upon researchers to show how ‘practical maneuvering within and across publics … takes advantage of structural opportunities for fashioning new social-network ties … among previously unallied actors’ (1998: 763). Such discussions are found within articles that relate to a wide variety of topics of interest to youth. Civic discussions are more commonly found in Campus. informal visits to youth cafes and other youth locales throughout the city tentatively confirm that these sites operate as centers where young people read and discuss matters found in such magazines. I chose these three magazines. (2) that the goal of these publics is to create an awareness of issues that relate to their role as part of Egyptian and Arab society and (3) these venues can and should be expanded to reach other audiences. to instigate change through the people who have the education. (As Al-Waqe’ is a bi-annual publication started in 2004. literature. including gender/sexuality.…What we wanted to do was to get this specific group of people thinking and looking outside of themselves and thinking about the problems of what we call ‘the real Egyptians’. and Ego is publication which started in April 2006.) In order to understand how these magazines create consensual notions about identity. I isolated those statements found within each article that relate to each of these frames. That was my main goal. I analysed four copies of Campus printed in 2006 for comparison. lifestyles.

cultural and historical events in the region. these youths draw upon their social networks for members. Obviously. trying to overcome it. The motivations behind Ihna were to create an Arabic-language magazine that young people would want to read. Campus. has been particularly adept at securing advertising dollars for their endeavors. nor do all youths have the resources necessary to undertake these projects. An important question that arises from this discussion is how young people are able to take advantage of structural opportunities to create publics. and of human agency. Al-Waqe’ began as a way for student members of the Cairo International Model Arab League (CIMAL) to become informed and comment on political. They hire friends as marketing directors to convince local and multinational businesses to invest advertising dollars. 42 percent of Campus page space is devoted to advertisements. as a student organization publication. Emirbayer and Sheller write: ‘Empirical social action is a synthetic product of the channeling influences of the structuring contexts of action. In this case.’ Ego intends for its readers to ‘rediscover’ their city and its culture. or even simply trying to survive it’. It is also intended to appeal to non-English readers and as a way for English-speaking youths to reconnect with the Arabic language. To establish themselves. as the most established magazine in this study. Culture & Society 31(3) industry] weren’t being real enough.3 percent of page space in Al-Waqe’. Al-Waqe’. as compared to 15 percent of page space in Ego and 4. despite their recent appearance on the magazine scene. Not all youths choose to devote their time and energy to these kinds of enterprises. young people rely upon their social ties and economic capital to utilize structural opportunities. on the other’ (1998: 761). spent two years in this stage before they found someone as a principal investor who didn’t think the idea was ‘way too silly’ (from this perspective.394 Media. persistence and determination are factors in the success of the creation of a public). the young people that decide to create such publics exercise a high degree of agency. writers. Financial backing allows . The founders of Ego. she expects advertising revenue to climb significantly as they continue to permeate the market. They also use the existing structure of youth locales that they frequent themselves to distribute their materials. Of the issues selected for the frame analysis of this research. but to think in English’. I should start my own publication. for example. on the one hand. so I decided I shouldn’t sit here and whine. uses American University in Cairo student funding to cover publication expenses. They connect with youth promoters to sponsor music events as a way to generate publicity for their magazines. given the fact that ‘youths had lost faith in other Arabic publications’. readers and ties to financial support. The Ego advertising director reports that. Those involved in the magazine start-ups state that they developed coalitions with their friends for securing investors in their projects. either by ‘trying to improve it. because ‘they were starting to not only read in English. or at least from my standards of reality. It also aspires to appeal to a wider age group. The mission of Al-Waqe’ is to express a ‘shared struggle’ with the ‘gloomy reality of this part of the world’.

’ He believes youths are used to other Arabic publications that express ideas ‘as if they were in denial’ and ‘not facing problems as they really are’. As to the origins of the magazine.Arvizu. 13 July 2006) The creative blending of Arabic English in print is a specific symbolic strategy made popular through these publics that reflects the disposition of these writers. the editor said: ‘It made it easier to read. ‘Ihna’ could be written ‘I7na’. the editor of Ihna says: ‘Ihna was launched [because] we thought that there could be an original Egyptian publication that could speak their [young people’s] language and their thoughts. For example. we do speak English. (interview. yes. We just wanted to tell youths that. yes. Language is a conscious choice for these youths and constitutes the fashioning of new ‘symbolic alignments’ within youth publics. The ‘hah’ is written with a ‘7’. The same group of young people that started Campus and Gmag also started Ihna. (2) one who constantly mooches off of friends or strangers and is infamous for it.’ It must also be noted that the Egyptian dialect printed is a particular ‘youth’ style of Arabic. we print Egyptian jokes [in Arabic English] that only an Egyptian would understand. as Nina Eliasoph and Paul Lichterman discuss: . but it doesn’t mean I have to choose this or that. This is also in common use in SMS text messaging and instant messaging (IM)/email. a magazine printed in Arabic font and using ‘Amaya. and uses up other people’s resources merely be existing’ (May 2006: 6). For example.… We’re just going to talk about problems just the way you talk about them in your everyday life. the Egyptian Arabic dialect. The editor of Gmag says: I think we have developed something because there are other publications that have followed us. English words are adapted to have a new meaning in Arabic. This type of linguistic practice. and (3) one who overstays his/her welcome. For Ihna: We’re going to write about it just how it is. ‘Campus Dictionary of Arabic Slang’. In each case. print professional quality copies. One submission is the word ‘barashot’. Campus has a humorous section in their magazine called. Emerging youth publics in Cairo 395 youth magazines to purchase computer equipment. cover distribution expenses and pay staff salaries. access to economic capital is key to creating youth publics. When asked about the decision to print the magazine using the Egyptian dialect rather than the modern standard Arabic common in the mass media. I personally went to an American university. more real and alive.… A lot of people are unaware that there are young Egyptians that can speak two different languages and still keep their language and identity intact. Other Arabic letters that have no English equivalent are also written using numbers. but we are Egyptian. using Arabic English. Campus and Gmag choose to publish in English. using letters and numbers to write Arabic words in English. defined as ‘(1) Arabization of the word parachute. you can talk … about problems in this country. Sometimes. This is part of the official Gmag language. We sort of. more present. yet they are forerunners in the use of Arabized English and the use of Arabic words in English type supplemented by numbers.

To code identity frames.396 Media. We later examine how linguistic capital is used to maintain a civic public under government censorship. In the above discussion. Because DMA is not a movement per se. an adversary and a specified means of attaining a particular goal. ‘codes. But how do these flows of communication engender collective orientations within youth publics? I focus on three types of collective orientation to explore this process further – those relating to identity. . we looked at how agency. As a form of DMA. The most frequent way in which ‘I’ or ‘We’ are discussed is as part of a ‘young generation’. I found that ‘I’. views towards the state and the youth role in society. Them’ in order to deduce whether there existed any consensus of who ‘I’. writers and editors contend that they provide a public space. and potentially every bit as crucial in determining inclusion (as well as exclusion) as those linguistic formations themselves. 1998: 755) The introduction of this magazine to the market extends the range of readers to include those youths who are not fluent in English. ‘We’ or ‘Them’ are. for young people to read and write about issues of concern to them not available elsewhere. Frames in the cultural context of action The previous analysis provides the foundation for comprehending how alternative press magazines in Egypt originate and develop. Culture & Society 31(3) … [is] not just random improvisations on shared themes. we can approximate what could be understood as an ideology within youth publics by conducting a frame analysis with regard to identity. (quoted in Emirbayer and Sheller. ‘Who are we?’ and ‘Who are they?’ This is following Charles Tilly’s framework for assessing ‘that potent set of social arrangements in which people construct shared stories about who they are. economic capital and linguistic capital are instrumental for young people to create publics. outside of mainstream or state-run media.’ but are themselves patterned and structured ways of inflecting the very meanings of linguistic formations. but a form of activism that establishes alternative media as both means and end of struggle. I classified these discussions in terms of ‘I vs. such discussions occurred in 45 instances (identity frames. see Figure 1). By exploring the frames around which these concepts are discussed. But do these publics espouse a particular ideology? Melucci (1996: 349) states that an ideology of a movement defines the identity of the actors involved. yet are familiar with the youthful ways in which Egyptian Arabic is spoken. ‘We’ or ‘They’ are not referenced in a consistent manner in these publics. I looked for how identity is couched in terms of ‘Who am I?’. we understand how youth culture magazines act as publics for civic discussions. Them’ and ‘We vs. how they are connected. we will not attempt to show how youth magazines meet these specific criteria. However. and what has happened to them’ (2003: 608).’ or ‘languages. the youth role and views towards the state. For the time period and selected number of publications chosen.’ ‘tools. n = 45. social ties.

and the rising waves of different types of nationalism. apart from being an ‘Egyptian youth’ or ‘Arab youth’. and these things can be determined. A famous Egyptian footballer who plays for a UK team is quoted in an article saying: . Emerging youth publics in Cairo 397 composing 25 percent of identity frames. where she spent her childhood before moving to Egypt. it is usually in terms of presenting a better image of themselves to the non-Arab world. like some people are abnormal. Consider the following statements: On a personal level. there is often an appreciation for the diversity that comes from acquiring various cultural schemas through having a ‘foreign’ education or living/traveling abroad. into places and out of places. and American – and based on that experience. (Campus. understanding. July 2006: 58) Identifying as young people whose identities have been influenced by several factors is a strategy that works to create bonds with others who have had similar experiences. Other identities mentioned include Egyptian (16 percent) and Arab (16 percent). as well as a recognition of the difficulty of having such an identity. a concept that I feel is becoming more elusive in our contemporary understanding of ourselves. An example of a ‘composite of cultures’ identity is the following excerpt: I’m talking about ‘identity’. they are in relation to either other Arabs or non-Arabs. The second most frequently mentioned identity frame for ‘I’ or ‘We’ is a ‘composite of cultures’ (or some version thereof). April 2006: 5) You could say we are abcultured. who was born in Kuwait. One article discusses Egyptians as second-class citizens in the Arab Gulf countries. what nation we swear allegiance to. into circumstances and out of circumstances. French. July 2006: 6) Dina is an Egyptian Sudanese young artist. globalization. Far nicer would be to call us subcultured. who are parents are.… At the core of her work lies the difficulty of the definition of ourselves nowadays. what jobs we do.Arvizu. When young people identify as Arabs vs non-Arabs. May 2006: 24). respectively. making up 22 percent of identity frames. and far more accurate because a subculture is that thing which weaves itself into and out of lives. ‘Perhaps we [young Egyptians] are better off here. (Al Waqe’. I have tried four types of education – Egyptian. (Campus. (Ego. July 2006: 72) When talking in these terms. especially with the rapidly increasing rate of technology. The ‘They’ is used in reference to older generations within Egyptian society. serving our home – God knows Egypt still continues to suffer from a massive “brain drain” as the most qualified of its youth and adults seek employment abroad’ (Campus. and a million and one other little factors. and the joy of learning … only through these experiences can a person become fully-rounded and balanced. British. When these identities are salient. the most effective system is that which encourages growth. We all have a ‘composite identity’ pieced together from whom we think we are. but that would just be mean.

or that they’re terrorists. and breathe the same polluted air . it is in regards to bridging differences with either a Christian. (Al-Waqe’. it does show that the boundaries between different ideas. He writes: The time has come for Muslims and Christians to stand together and say ‘Enough. Culture & Society 31(3) FIGURE 1 Identity frames Alienated 4% Privileged 4% Muslim 9% Fantasy identity 4% Composite of cultures 22% Arab 16% Young 25% Egyptian 16% Note: n = 48. (Ego. intersect with each other in many ways. One young man writes: Say. I’m trying to let them see that if we’re given a fair chance in anything – we will succeed.398 Media. this ideal is propagated in feminist thought. like feminism and Islam. I am a pious Muslim man who. April 2006: 11) Another author comments on the state of religious discrimination in Egyptian society. in accordance with his faith believes that his wife has the complete right to work. feminist or nationalist identity. Ego and Al-Waqe’ In the West. for example. eat the same food.’ We all share the same country. some people think that Arabs just create problems. April 2006: 86) When a Muslim identity is activated (9 percent). Does that mean that I am a feminist? Not necessarily. This belief clearly emanates from the fact that I believe in a certain interpretation of Islam and thus believe in the right of women to work. compiled from four issues each of Campus. That’s all I’m trying to do. However. But at the same time.

conference.… We are many. Being alienated means living in Cairo.C. means living next to rich people. CIMAL tries to convey the message that belonging to a ‘privileged’ section of Egyptian and Arab society at large does not mean we . We share the general lack of rights that is the plight of all Egyptians. (Al-Waqe’. (Ego. and grow more tolerant of others. and stop wishing for a plane ticket out. of course. (Campus. He continues: [Connoisseur kids] have forgotten where they’ve come from and should be ashamed of themselves too. April 2005: 20–21) Although a religious identity is not as frequently mentioned as other identities. completely removed from the mainstream and happy to remain so. no to blind imitation. For patriotism neatly fits in an Islamic framework when one defines patriotism as love for his country and the zeal to defend it.U. He writes: Being alienated means living in the city. it is noteworthy that in the few instances it is mentioned there is an explicit attempt to transcend the conventional ways in which a religious identity is discussed. But the point. Let’s work together for the sake of ‘our’ country. is not to be alienated…. We need to know ourselves. accept ourselves. April 2006: 9) Or consider the statement of one writer who is concerned whether there is a conflict between being a Muslim and being an Egyptian. means living next to poor people. but rather liquid and permutable. (AlWaqe’. June 2006: 37) Another author speaks of being ‘proud’ to be alienated. So we can’t afford to pretend we are alienated. One writer uses the term ‘connoisseur kids’ to describe those who have ‘bought into the whole consumer lifestyle with its gadgetry and logo recognition’. July 2006: 72) Speaking of the responsibilities of a ‘privileged’ identity (4 percent) is another way in which greater societal integration is discussed. There are actually many such alternative threads of existence in this country. So let’s stop thinking in terms of us and them. There is also an ‘alienated’ identity that accompanies coming from a certain class stratum and having a multicultural disposition (4 percent). we who live in this country without actually living in it. and perhaps then we’ll all feel at home here. but a definite yes to integration. (Ego. freeing it from hegemonic powers. Although less frequently mentioned. young people are encouraged think of their culture as fluid and changing. It becomes clear that my Islamic identity need not negate my patriotic one. Emerging youth publics in Cairo 399 on a daily basis. April 2006: 11) In order to see beyond the alienation. this identity is usually attributed to the disjointed feelings one has in relation to ‘common’ Egyptian society.Arvizu. One woman in Al-Waqe’ writes: Especially as an A. but also mentions the need to overcome it to feel more integrated. Egyptians as Egyptians need to realize that their culture is not static. means living next to people. We do want to make this our city.

And we need more scholars. April 2006: 1) Also mentioned is the idea of a virtual life with a ‘fantasy’ identity (4 percent). all of those discussions were oriented towards activating an agency perspective versus an apathy perspective (100 percent ‘agency’ frames). and start determining our own destinies. If a statement implied that young people should take a passive role in society. activists. it is time. 100 percent ‘critique’ frame).’ If his analogy is precise. Of the 25 discussions of views towards the state in this analysis. and the work ethic we need. Arab regional and international governance. n = 25.400 Media. it was coded as ‘agency’. and community leaders. or is all this a cover up for soldering a new ruling coalition of elites? And how is the . If a statement implied that young people should take an active role in changing society. as the youth of the Middle East. In relation to a critique of national economic policy. April 2006: 10) Another young person frames this in terms of a call for greater democratization. they will provide the innovation. We need less 20-year-old guys in BMWs and girls with silicon bodies. one contributor asks: Does a genuine interest in improving conditions for investment actually exist. alienation from the ‘real world’. It is time we decide to make a difference. (Al-Waqe’.… This is not a call for a revolution against governments or violent mobilization. (Ego. Of the 15 instances in which the youth role was mentioned within the time period under study (Youth role frame. He writes: Lawrence Whitehead once wrote that ‘democratization is like a theatrical drama. the state of authoritarianism. all expressed a critique rather than an approval of current national and regional governance (Views towards the state. The frames related to the role of youth in society are coded in terms of ‘agency vs apathy’. and farcical interpretations of overall national governance. so mundane and predictable’. In this sense. (Al-Waqe’. Culture & Society 31(3) are indifferent to the problems that afflict them … having access to valuable resources most of the population does not have access to only increases our moral responsibility towards our countries and our people. remove our cobwebs. one author writes: If the Arab youth take it upon themselves to make a difference and bring us out of the miserable situation we face today. the planning. June 2006: 28). May 2006: 16) There is a general sense of urgency for young people to apply the skills their education instills in them towards societal improvement. These discussions arise within a context of dissatisfaction with the status quo. However. n = 15). politicians. described as ‘less exciting and satisfying. For example. then our curtains have been down. Views towards the state were categorized in terms of ‘approval’ or ‘critique’. it was coded as ‘apathy’. These discussions include a critique of national economic policy. to brush off the dust. is the reason why some youths choose to become engrossed with video role-playing games (Ego. and our lights have dimmed for decades.

because it is known that if it is allowed to snowball unchecked. (Ego. July 2006: 16) Given this anti-authoritarian stance.… It is thus very accurate to use George Orwell’s ‘1984’ to describe ‘2005’ and equally accurate to describe the Ruling Party as the ‘PARTY ruled by Big Brother’. a few hundred protestors are met by the full regalia of the official welcoming committee. Yet all this grandiose talk abroad eventually leads nowhere. then things might really happen. Another set of discussions centers around the authoritarian rule of the state in prohibiting expressions of dissent and the consequences of emergency law. one young woman writes: Women were trampled upon and sexually abused in a supposedly conservative society right in the middle of a crammed street.Arvizu. July 2006: 55) Authoritarianism is linked with regional Arab governance as well. November 2004: 16). we should be grateful. and that if we get a little. He says: ‘The significant amount of money deducted from the country’s budget and spent on the military could be drastically cut and diverted into economic interests so as to fulfill more vital economic and social demands’ (Al-Waqe’. However. the discussions problematize notions of a democracy. November 2004: 2) Another sees the military budget as impinging upon the government’s role to provide social benefits. going to compensate for lost revenue from taxes and tariffs without compromising on public subsidies? (Al-Waqe’.… This incident can be considered as representative of the ‘population’ of violations that took place this year. knowing that the country is already running a massive deficit. yet they are persecuted on a daily basis within their own countries and abroad. as one author asserts: I am an Arab citizen among many others who have found themselves in a world that knows no justice. One young man asks: Is democracy a means or an end? Do we really need to fight to attain it? Why do scholars never mention political reform without mentioning democracy? Why do we . There is a general sense that state patronage of business and military elites is not healthy for the socioeconomic condition of the country. Emerging youth publics in Cairo 401 government. Opposition is absorbed and ignored. as if they were their … um … rights. one might expect these publics to espouse a pro-democratic position. Our rulers have managed to make us believe that these inalienable rights are not really for us. Dissent actually means something here. In response to the ways in which undercover police treated protestors calling for political reform in May 2005. Millions of Arabs would stand strongly against violence and bloodshed. (Ego.… Here. Millions in the West took to the streets against the war. He writes: Abroad. it is surprising how people demand their rights so strongly. (Al-Waqe’. but not over there. and yet they couldn’t affect the change they wanted. November 2005: 10) Another author makes a comparison between the protest potential in Egypt and abroad.

have particular interests in keeping the Arab world in an arms race. Some of the ideas whimsically discussed include ‘breeding’ laws. these questions are still persistent to the author and have not yet gained a clear answer. July 2006: 30) This is often the tone used when print censorship is discussed in these publics. A concerned youth comments: After 9/11. legalized prostitution and a progressive income tax (Ego. you can imagine what or who the activists were upset with. July 2006: 21) . entirely powerless’. especially the United States. or more mercifully to death for no reason.402 Media. A writer for Campus discusses emergency law in the following way: The emergency law is enforced for a reason. discourse on democracy and human rights reached a peak. April 2006: 34–5). April 2006: 46–7). In a review for a play performed by bloggers at AUC. At the same time. despite Western promises to promote democracy and human rights. (Ego. (Al-Waqe’. He writes: The U. People turn a blind eye to the many violations perpetrated by Arab regimes against their own people.S. it is quite inconceivable that the Western world.… well. Certainly the police do not just pick up people at random and beat them to dehumanization. Ego has a regular feature in every issue called ‘Il Dictatore’. Culture & Society 31(3) always consider democracy as ‘the way’? Would China have sustained her economic growth under a democratic regime? These are not rhetorical questions. in fact. notwithstanding any large conspiracy theories. The idea behind the feature is to solicit responses from readers on what they would do if they were dictator of Egypt for a day.-led war on terror and its new habit of pointing fingers at its former Arab allies. yet in practice none of these principles were adopted. July 2006: 16) Another writer hints at the possibility of Western intervention in the region as way to promote further authoritarianism. (Al-Waqe’. They are also quick to critique Western countries’ intentions to promote democracy in the region. When irony is used in this fashion. ‘In a democracy. (Ego. (Campus.… It is necessary to clarify that. the writer says: The night (which was advertised as a ‘blogger’s concert’) had begun with a video presentation about pro-democracy activists. say ‘Alec Smart’ and ‘Noah Tall’ (Ego. but they are. It was basically anti. It’s all in the service of the country. April 2006: 12) Ego prints writings by two authors with pseudonyms who discuss the hypocrisies of democracies in practice. November 2004: 16) These discussions use a critical lens to understand geo-political arrangements that have local/national effects. The last set of articles depicting criticism towards state governance are those written in a humorous or farcical fashion. power rests entirely with the people. has given more energy to Arab governments in their internal war. those Western powers have overseen some of the worst of recent violations. one reads between the lines of what is written. asking them for stronger confrontation of terrorism.

(Ego. It could be that these publics. the country is ranked 143rd of 167 countries in the 2005 World Press Freedom Index. He says: ‘We have freedom. but they must still be previewed by government censors. especially because they publish at AUC. This analysis demonstrates that discussions are highly structured towards activating the agency potential of youth and adopting a critical stance towards the government. By focusing on the ways these publics engender specific collective orientations. In recent years. threat to the power structure and. Eickelman writes: . The editor of Campus concurs. but we have to be responsible’. are youth publics that espouse an anti-authoritarian ideology able to thrive within this context? I propose that linguistic capital works to the advantage of these publics. youth publics have reason to be cautious in their vocal opposition to the state. but there is a tendency to favor a youth identity and an identity based on a composite of cultures. Emerging youth publics in Cairo Instead of printing a specific article. She says: ‘We never used to have problems with censors because English magazine readers are such a small percentage of the population’ (interview). Egypt is a country where martial law has been in effect since 1981 and numerous intellectual ‘detractors’ have been detained for years under this legislation. for this reason. then. How. are allowed to continue to print and distribute copies. The organizing committee chair of the CIMAL remarks that they experience no censorship of their printed materials. What type of challenge do youth publics pose to governmental elites? Perhaps these publics pose more of a symbolic. we can posit that they espouse a particular ideology that could be viewed as potentially threatening to the state. we have had to take the very tough decision to completely censor his [the writer’s] article. the government has allowed independent publishing houses to print newspapers and news magazines. There exists a cadre of government officials whose job it is to preview publicly printed material for subversive content before they are released to the masses.Arvizu. rather than actual. Ego ran the following statement: 403 Unfortunately. as we deemed it to be contrary to dearly-held values in our country and potentially offensive to the authorities who are very good friends of ours. Discussions are less structured around identity. To further substantiate the claim that freedom of expression is restricted in Egypt. May 2006: 17) The issue of censorship and the relation of these publics to the state are discussed more fully in the next section. like similar publics in Iran. do not pose enough of a threat to warrant the conventional modes of state intervention. We look to the experiences of editors and writers with government censors to answer these questions. Bridging publics in a media-censored field As mentioned earlier.

as an Arabic-language youth magazine. the editor of Ihna spends two days in the government censorship office to review the content of their articles. He says that he tries to negotiate with them. but in a positive light. The Campus editor continues: Once. Somebody. so they sicked the censorship on us. but a ‘challenge to the system of symbolic production – a critique of the political economy of mass communication and an effort to build democratic alternatives’ (2006: 99). to communicate their message while evading the attention of censors. Here. (Eickelman and Anderson. It helps that government censors are known to have a poor command of the English language. because they are not smart’.’ Often. somewhere. the writers of Ihna have their own ways of creatively defying censorship guidelines by using youth slang instead of terms that censors are familiar with. youth publics seek to democratize the current media structure by creating their own forums for expression. and the content of Friday sermons – know that their political impact is minimal and that the costs of repression outweigh those of turning a blind eye. Before they print each month. while simultaneously creating more venues. They started asking. we wrote an article about the President’s son [Gamal Mubarak]. So now. as an Arabic-language publication. Writers find creative ways. Carroll and Hackett maintain that media activism is not simply a symbolic challenge to elites.v. the recent experiences of Campus and Ihna portray a different picture. ‘No. such as the introduction of Arabic-language magazines. The above experiences of youth writers and editors confirm this notion.. we meant that. it is an adventure because censorship for us is real. ‘Who are you? What are you doing?’ [Another time] we had a huge run-in with censorship. . faces greater scrutiny from censors. Culture & Society 31(3) Small intellectual magazines in Tehran publish on a latitude of subjects. because we’ve gotten away with so much. It could be that Ihna is monitored more closely by authorities because. By continuously adapting new ways to communicate to avoid the suspicions of elites. We sort of got in trouble for printing something about the army. Not because of what we’ve done. to increase their influence and include other perspectives. Ihna. (Interview) The editor of Gmag adds: ‘Sometimes they [censors] pick on really ridiculous articles and leave really serious hardcore political articles alone. explaining to censors. had issues with us. we didn’t mean this. It got the attention of the authorities. Before we never thought about it.404 Media. but we still do what we do. 2003: 39) While their perceived minimal impact and use of English language may account for why censors ignored youth publications in the past. it is perceived to have a potentially larger influence than English-language youth magazines. such as leaving out certain words as we saw in some of the examples above. we see the strategic use of linguistic capital to explain the maintenance of these publics despite governmental scrutiny. t. as the authorities – who retain tight control on radio.

By creating publications that espouse consensual notions around youth agency potential. as well as several others who work for the United Nations. we have assumed that magazine readers actively engage in the discussions and reflect on the messages contained in these publics. the CIMAL includes an alumni guide in their publications that lists those who now work as an assistant program officer in the International Relations Department of the National Ministry of Communication and Information Technology. As a way to demonstrate this lasting influence. that the messages contained therein must be salient for a growing number of young people. an economic researcher in the Regional Arab Financial Institutions Department in the National Ministry of International Cooperation. that. I suggest that these publics generate ‘psychical alliances’ among members that may persist after they have moved beyond the youth stage. where young people gather to read and socialize. youth publics contribute to a generational consciousness that could have a lasting influence in whatever capacities these young people work in the future. such as cafes. is measured not by having its interests absorbed by elites. Nonetheless. 2000. but by creating a vibrant public sphere for previously excluded voices (in this case.Arvizu. Campus. 2004). only a future systematic assessment of reader consumption practices and interpretations can yield reliable data to assess the above propositions. it is implied that their experiences as part of CIMAL and as readers of Al-Waqe’ influenced their decisions to pursue occupations that further their desire to play an active role within Egyptian and Arab society. Because youth identities and civic/political orientations are conceptually shaped by the experiences they have at this time in their lives (Erlich. constructive critiques of the state and heterogeneous notions of identity. Gmag and Ihna are distributed in youth locales. Emerging youth publics in Cairo The durable influence of youth publics 405 An important question for further research is how can we measure and understand the influence of the messages contained in youth publics. multinational firms. an intern and speech writer in the Office of the Secretary General of the Arab League. For our present discussion. given that Al-Waqe’ is a publication produced and written for young people who participate in conferences designed for similar kinds of discussions. it is hoped that the empirical evidence provided here illustrates the multi-dimensional aspects and analytical worth of publics that Emirbayer and Sheller intended. This is a reasonable assumption. Ego. young people). development and maintenance strategies of an intermediary opening public. since youth magazines in Egypt have continued to increase in number over the past eight years. as demonstrated by youth publics in Cairo. Rebenstorf. as well as making a compelling case for taking notice of DMA in contexts such as Cairo. media companies or diplomatic positions. as mentioned earlier. Carroll and Hackett write: . By focusing on the origins. We could also infer. The success of DMA forms. While these alumni are no longer members of this youth public.

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