Arabic theater in early khedivial culture, 1868-72: James Sanua revisited
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This article revisits the official culture of the early khedivate through a microhistory of the first modern Egyptian theater in Arabic. Based on archival research, it aims at a recalibration of recent scholarship by showing khedivial culture as a complex framework of competing patriotisms. It analyzes the discourse about theater in the Arabic press, including the journalist Muhammad Unsi's call for performances in Arabic in 1870. It shows that the realization of this idea was the theater group led by James Sanua between 1871 and 1872, which also performed Ê¿Abd al-Fattah al-Misri's tragedy. But the troupe was not an expression of subversive nationalism, as has been claimed by scholars. My historical reconstruction and my analysis of the content of Sanua's comedies show loyalism toward the Khedive Ismail. Yet his form of contemporary satire was incompatible with elite cultural patriotism, which employed historicization as its dominant technique. This revision throws new light on a crucial moment of social change in the history of modern Egypt, when the ruler was expected to preside over the plural cultural bodies of the nation. © 2014 Cambridge University Press .
Published Version (Please cite this version)10.1017/S0020743813001311
Publication InfoMestyan, Adam (2014). Arabic theater in early khedivial culture, 1868-72: James Sanua revisited. International Journal of Middle East Studies, 46(1). pp. 117-137. 10.1017/S0020743813001311. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/12572.
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Assistant Professor of History
Adam Mestyan is a historian of the modern Arab world, whose research and teaching focus on the global social history of nation-state building, nationalism, and sovereignty. He was a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows, and recipient of numerous grants and fellowships.Currently, he is working on his second monograph, Modern Arab Kingship, an international history of Arab monarchies and Western imperialism from the late nineteenth century until the