Academic journal article The Historian

Arab Patriotism: The Ideology and Culture of Power in Late Ottoman Egypt

Academic journal article The Historian

Arab Patriotism: The Ideology and Culture of Power in Late Ottoman Egypt

Article excerpt

Arab Patriotism: The Ideology and Culture of Power in Late Ottoman Egypt. By Adam Mestyan. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2017. Pp. xv, 356. $45.00.)

Adam Mestyan takes a creative and innovative approach to studying the origins of Arab nationalism in Egypt. Though standard histories examine the writings of nationalist thinkers, the author approaches the topic through the lens of cultural production and ritual performance. He assesses theatrical productions, journals, and history texts during the reign of Khedive Ismail Pasha [r. 1863-1879]. He attributes nationalism's origins not to forces opposing Ottoman rule or defying colonialism but to a patriotic sentiment that emerged between the Egyptian province and the Ottoman empire. Arab Patriotism argues that the elite needed to reframe their national narrative in an imperial context to confront the paradox of the khedive--nominally an Ottoman governor (wali), whose rule no longer depended on the Ottoman empire. The compromise came through the discursive production of patriotism (wataniyya). For the Arab elite in Egypt, such as impresarios of a nascent Arab theatre, theatre-goers, and writers, patriotism was an empire-wide ideology that allowed Arabic speaking elites to negotiate cooperation with the khedive within an imperial Ottoman system. As a result, patriotism was not born through the influence of Europeans but rather as a form of "Ottomanization/localization strategy" (8).

Based on extensive archival research in various languages on the Egyptian state, including newspapers and diplomatic as well as personal correspondence (such as impresarios petitioning the khedives for funding), the author demonstrates how the elite defined Egyptian patriotism. They disseminated these ideas through new public spaces, such as the Khedival Opera House opened in 1869, as well as journals and historical texts. …

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