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Egypt’s carceral poetry and the public sphere


Mohsen Mohamed and Sherine Elbanhawy

"You can't understand Egypt without understanding what's happening in its prisons." An aphorism one could use in diverse countries around the world at different epochs. Today's esteemed guests will explore various ideas and philosophies through the lenses of civil society and its dissidents and dissonances in different contexts, from the Arab world, most prominently contemporary Egypt, and resonances or contrasts with select European examples. The hope is to extract commonalities and parallels that help us to understand the carceral experience with respect to care and caring, its reconfiguring of human distances, and its impact on human rights and the suppression of artists. There are few places better to begin such explorations than poetry, which can be thought of as an unbroken cord in human history. As Eric Ormsby noted in an essay entitled 'Poetry as Isotope,' "the hidden life of words is that life they possessed in the past and will possess in the future." The panel will begin with Mohsen Mohamed reciting two of his own poems in Arabic followed by Sherine Elbanhawy reciting her English translation and describing her initial reaction upon hearing Mohsen's reading of his work. Mohsen Mohamed and Sherine Elbanhawy in discussion with Profs. Frances Hasso & Corina Stan. Sponsored by Duke Libraries, Laertes Press, Duke Middle East Studies Center (DUMESC), Duke Islamic Studies Center (DISC), Duke English Dept., and Trent Grant A light lunch will be served


Global, Human Rights, Humanities, Middle East focus, Panel/Seminar/Colloquium, Politics, Research, Social Sciences