A prominent historian provides an engaging on-the-ground account of the everyday authoritarianism that produced the Arab Spring in Egypt
“A visceral and perceptive study of life under autocracy.”—Publishers Weekly
An unmatched contemporary history of authoritarian politics and an unflinching examination of the politics of historical authority, My Egypt Archive is at once a chronicle of Egypt in the 2000s and a historian’s bildungsroman. As Alan Mikhail dutifully collected the paper scraps of the past, he witnessed how the everyday oppressions of a government institution led most Egyptians to want to remake their society in early 2011. In telling these stories of the archive, Mikhail centers the politics of access, interpersonal relationships, state power, and the emotion, anxiety, and inchoate nature of historical research.
My Egypt Archive reveals the workings of an authoritarian regime from inside its institutions in the decade leading up to the Arab Spring and, in doing so, points the way to exciting new modes of historical inquiry that give voice to the visceral realities all historians experience.
About the Author
Alan Mikhail is the Chace Family Professor of History and chair of the Department of History at Yale University. He is the author of four previous books and editor of another.
“Mikhail casts the Cairo archive as a microcosm of modern Egypt. Its hierarchies, rivalries, petty cruelties, decay, neglect, corruption and anomie supply the material and the trigger for his reflections on the condition of his ancestral land.”—Wall Street Journal
“Insightful and intimate. . . . A visceral and perceptive study of life under autocracy.”—Publishers Weekly
Winner of the Victor Turner Writing Prize, sponsored by the Society for Humanistic Anthropology
“What an entertaining, infuriating and incisive book Alan Mikhail has written. To assess the state of modern Egypt via the stories of its national archives is such a brilliant means of getting at the small workings of a society—from the maddening sludge of the country’s ever-present bureaucracy to the way so much of daily life revolves around arbitrary rules, selectively enforced. My Egypt Archive is a wonderful bridge of a book, spanning the chasm between scholarly research and deeply personal reflection, history as profession and history as marrow.”—Omar El Akkad, author of What Strange Paradise
“In this beautifully written book, Mikhail records his personal story as a young Egyptian-American historian maneuvering the labyrinthine Egyptian archives. He cleverly interweaves entries on daily encounters with aloof bureaucrats and intimate interactions with fellow researchers with his critique of Egyptian politics and nationalistic history.”—Zeinab Abul-Magd, author of Imagined Empires: A History of Revolt in Egypt
“A remarkably detailed ethnography and beautifully written, thought-provoking, and sensitive memoir that provides a fascinating perspective on state control, bureaucracy, and class structure in modern Egypt.”—Talal Asad, City University of New York
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