Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Because I have nothing more culturally enlightening to share than the fact that Cynthia and I discovered tonight that the Yemeni restaurant in Doqqi delivers to our downtown doorstep, I am going to regale you with some of the latest AUC news as covered by the student-produced campus newspaper, the Caravan.
First we have this choice comic strip wherein Americans are portrayed as green-eyed frat boys in pink polos ("dude bros", if you will), busty blonde valley girls, and hip hop-garbed black kids who speak only monosyllabically. These three archetypal Americans are shaming an Egyptian for being able to speak Arabic and enjoying Egyptian cinema. While there's a whole lot wrong with the comic, the irony is that most AUC students don't know Americans like this. The Americans that study abroad or come here for grad school exemplify a whole set of stereotypes on our own. You have the noble types who are seeking to better understand the Arab world or Islam, the know-it-alls who are here to study Arabic and treat you with the utmost scorn if you're not smoking shisha with old men in an ahwa and deploying your best colloquial Egyptian Arabic phrases by your second week here, the wanderers who are "finding" themselves in a foreign land, the go-getters who're adding studying in Egypt to résumés already replete with internships at various government agencies—they inevitably all want to work for the CIA or the FBI, the bleeding hearts who have come here to volunteer among the poor and refugees, the embittered ones that hate it here and become alcoholics, etc. etc. Most of us are some mix of most of those categories (though I assure you, I'm not an alcoholic and my Egyptian Arabic is nothing to hold over the heads of others). Only among the undergraduate study-abroaders do you find anyone approaching the stereotypes in the comic and even then, they're a rarity. The people on campus who most closely fit those caricatures? Egyptians! Upper class, popped-collared, designer brand-donning, gigantic sunglasses-sporting Egyptian kids. I swear, AUC's undergrads are more "American" than me, at least superficially. They haven't quite caught on to the idea that you're not entitled to throw trash on the ground just because some man* in a uniform following you around with a broom and cleaning your every mess. (*Or child—AUC's food contractors hired children in an move embarrassing for a university that has published research on the phenomenon.) Anyway, I'd wager their Western ways and styles come more from movies and other media than from real live Americans and other Westerners. The comic strip appearing in the latest print version of the Caravan was even worse, depicting a terribly inappropriate rendering of a Chinese man that looked like something out of a racist propaganda leaflet from a mercifully bygone era.
The actual articles in the student paper range from the informative (like the one about AUC's new connections with Columbia and Sciences Po) to the ridiculous: AUC, despite being an American liberal arts university, is too prudish to allow nude figure drawing. I guess that's par for the course, though, when there are worries about Beyoncé's scandalousness is apparently a threat to the Muslim Brotherhood. Another article, was accompanied by a photo of a bunch of bored looking AUC students protesting Israeli actions in East Jerusalem (Al-Quds), one of whom had a creative little sign with a blurry, crossed-out Israeli flag. She was, no doubt, showing her commitment to a commitment for a two-state solution. The protest, according to the article, featured a Jewish kid from New York who "surprised the crowd with his condemnation of Israel’s actions". I can hear the gasps now and the excited whispers, "Ya salaam, he doesn't even have horns!" Meanwhile, their more spirited compatriots at other universities were busy burning Israeli flags.
Anyway, that's about enough fun for today, onto (more) news.

News & Issues
Migration and Refugees


Kate's Typewriter said...

really liked your summary of Americans in Egypt... made me wonder which category I fit in. I guess it varies by day and stress level... :)

Ahmed said...

I guess this is one of my fave posts :) I wonder which category you fit in..