Activism and Exception in Covering Egypt’s Uprising: A Critical Reading of the New York Times Representation of Female Protestors

In: Sociology of Islam
Author: Nermin Allam1
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This paper interrogates the representation of women in the NEW YORK TIMES (nyt) coverage of the 2011 Egyptian uprising. In it, I highlight some of the ways in which Orientalist stereotypes were often manifested in the nyt representation of female protestors. The data for this project draws upon 224 news-stories published in the nyt during the 2011 Egyptian uprising. The stories offer a detailed coverage of the popular movement between January 25 and February 19, 2011. I carry out a textual analysis of news and commentaries, and read the text through the lens of feminist and postcolonial theories. My analysis suggests that traditional Orientalist motifs of passiveness coexisted along new ones of agency in the coverage. By evoking the myth of female passiveness and framing female activism as an exception, the nyt, I suggest, assuaged the effect of women’s activism in deconstructing traditional gender and geopolitical stereotypes. In so doing, the paper contributes to exposing how Orientalist discourses are able to reflect variation and historical shifts. It also extends the postcolonial feminist insight to new cases by offering a critical reading of women’s image in a key global news paper and amidst a period of change and uncertainties.

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