The Reification of Concrete Work in Egyptian Film Production

The anthropology of cinema has been instrumental in describing the ‘unseen’ labour invested in making films. What has been less explored is that, within the filmmaking process, workers erase each other’s concrete effort in a similar manner. This process is what I call ‘reification’. Extending Georg Lukács’ reflections, I argue that the relations of production in filmmaking seem to be transformed into relations between things (images and sounds) in a recurring pattern throughout the filmmaking process. This transformation impacts every juncture in commercial film production in Egypt, and film workers manage its continuous impact via conventional means of recognition towards their concrete work. The overarching project is to understand, on one hand, how the serial erasure of concrete work contributes to creating the film as a commodity and, on the other hand, how workers find value in their work under conditions where their effort is consumed by the things that they produce.

A Brief History of the Future of Culture in Egypt

This essay offers a brief intellectual history of the discourse surrounding “the future of culture” in Egypt. Starting with reflections on the future of the official cultural apparatus after the 2011 revolution, the essay moves on to three significant moments in the longer history of such reflections, each with its own set of concerns. These concerns range from culture and globalization in the 1990s and early 2000s, to cultural planning and development in the 1960s and 1970s, to culture and education in the wake of Taha Hussein’s The Future of Culture in Egypt (1938). Such changing concerns show how the so-called “future of culture” changes in different historical circumstances, while conceptions of culture remain tied to changing imaginaries of the nation-state.