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Martyrs and TrickstersAn Ethnography of the Egyptian Revolution$
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Walter Armbrust

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780691162645

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691162645.001.0001

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Martyr Milestones

Martyr Milestones

(p.99) Chapter 5 Martyr Milestones
Martyrs and Tricksters

Walter Armbrust

Princeton University Press

This chapter looks at several vignettes through which one sees the history of a crucial swathe of the revolution told through performances of martyrdom. These link to important political events in the revolution, but also to a dense network of textual and spatial anchors far beyond the scope of discrete acts of political contention. The experience of uncloseable liminality in the revolution was disorienting and uncomfortable, but it was also truly liminal in the sense that it enabled new forms of agency, or one might just say that “thinking outside the box” becomes obligatory when the status of the box itself is thrown into doubt. For some, this absence-of-the-box agency was a source of creativity. When a contest for power ensued after the collapse of communitas it did not mean that all forms of history and prior social attachments disappeared, but it did allow revolutionaries much greater license as bricoleurs who could do things in performance spaces that could not have been previously thinkable, and join things together that could not have been joined. But it must not be forgotten that ritual exists for a reason, namely as a means for controlling the dangers of liminality.

Keywords:   revolution, martyrdom, political events, liminality, creativity, communitas, revolutionaries, performance spaces, ritual

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