Protest Culture in Egypt

How does poetry inform activism and political protest? Join us for a lecture on the literary heritage of “The Arab Spring” by Professor Elliott Colla (Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies, Georgetown University).

A celebrated scholar of Arabic literature, translator, and novelist, Professor Colla is currently a William Bentinck-Smith Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies, Harvard University. This engaging talk on political slogans in Egypt is part of his new book in progress, The People Wanted: Words, Movements, and Egyptian RevolutionView photos from the event

Revolution in Verse: Protest Culture in Egypt

NEW DATE: Friday, February 19, 2016, 12-1 pm at 228 Battelle-Tompkins Hall

Elliott Colla 1







When Egyptians took to the streets five years ago, they armed themselves with poems. During the initial 18-day period of revolution, the soundtrack was that of rhyming couplets and song, through which revolutionaries managed to articulate a wide range of demands, complaints and dreams. What is it about poetry that makes it so useful to protest movements? What can the study of slogans teach us about poetry and literature?


About our speaker

Elliott Colla is a scholar of modern Arabic literature and has translated novels by Ibrahim al-Koni, Raba’i al-Madhoun, Ibrahim Aslan and Idris Ali. He is the author of many articles on modern political culture in the Arab world and a book on the place of ancient Egypt in modern Egyptian history, entitled: Conflicted Antiquities: Egyptology, Egyptomania, Egyptian Modernity (Duke University Press, 2007). Colla teaches Arabic literature and attends committee meetings at Georgetown University. His first crime novel, Baghdad Central, was published by Bitter Lemon Press in 2014.


elliott-colla_photo-by-tony-rinaldo_373px You can find out more about Professor Colla on his website








Have a look at Elliott Colla’s books and articles:

Bagdad CentralBaghdad Central is a noir novel set in Baghdad in September 2003. The US occupation of Iraq is a swamp of incompetence and self-delusion. As the Iraqi army and police as disbanded, Inspector Muhsin al-Khafaji, a mid-level Iraqi policeman,  is investigating the disappearance of young women translators working for the US Army. The bloody trail leads Khafaji through battles, bars, and brothels then finally back to the Green Zone, where it all began.






conflicted antiquitiesConflicted Antiquities is a rich cultural history of European and Egyptian interest in ancient Egypt and its material culture, from the early nineteenth century until the mid-twentieth. Consulting the relevant Arabic archives, Elliott Colla demonstrates that the emergence of Egyptology—the study of ancient Egypt and its material legacy—was as consequential for modern Egyptians as it was for Europeans. The values and practices introduced by the new science of archaeology played a key role in the formation of a new colonial regime in Egypt.






Translations (click on the book covers to find out more)

Lady from Tel Aviv  Gold Dust  The Heron  Poor

Photos from the Event