Home News The Sound of the Egyptian Subaltern in 2011 Revolutionary Protest Songs

The Sound of the Egyptian Subaltern in 2011 Revolutionary Protest Songs


“How we would persuade the skeptic, specifically skeptical political scientists, that music issues, that music is politics. Can we present that have been it not for music sure issues wouldn’t occur, sure concepts not conceived, sure grievances not aired, sure injustices not challenged-or left unchallenged.” (Avenue, 2012: 162). Comprehending Avenue’s phrases, it’s important for Worldwide Relations (IR) college students and students to query why we’re not launched to tutorial works that use music as a supply of study. Bleiker (2001: 518) underscored that standard IR’s slim boundaries legitimized some sources of study, corresponding to political speeches and authorities paperwork, over others. By way of these elitist sources (Grayson, 2015), standard IR eradicated the politics of illustration and political struggles (Bleiker, 2011: 518). This typically obliterated the voices of who’re subordinated. Correspondingly, Frost (2010: 440) famous that the aesthetic flip emerged as a break from these standard boundaries and inspired utilizing non-conventional sources, corresponding to music, to achieve what’s exterminated. Apprehending to that, Subaltern Research, inside IR, is invested in recovering the unattended subalterns’ voices (Chalcraft, 2008: 376). The subaltern is a bunch who’s subordinated and is at an inferior rank (Spivak, 1988a: 35). Accordingly, on this piece I tackle in what methods the evaluation of music broadens the scope of Subaltern Research inside Worldwide Relations.

I argue that the evaluation of music broadens its scope in two methods: firstly, by revealing the subaltern’s voice by means of the inquiry of a non-conventional supply, and secondly, by means of understanding the subaltern, by forging new insights on political occasions from under. Increase my argument, I divide this piece into 5 sections. Firstly, I look at standard IR and its slim boundaries. Secondly, I introduce the aesthetic flip. Thirdly, I current Subaltern Research inside IR. Fourthly, in software of the earlier sections, I reveal my evaluation by means of the Egyptian January 25th Revolution’s case particularly chosen for 2 causes: research of protests proved to be useful for revealing the subaltern’s voice (Cronin, 2008: 2), and Center East students gave little consideration to Subaltern Research (Webber, 1997: 11). Moreover, I carry major and secondary evaluation by methodologically evaluating the up to date nationwide anthem and two of essentially the most well-known protest songs. Lastly, I reckon the three limitations to my argument that are: the shortcoming of accessing the voice of the complete subaltern, the potential of the appropriation of the subaltern’s voice by means of translation, and the possibility of music’s incapability of giving the subaltern a voice in different circumstances.

Standard Worldwide Relations

Worldwide Relations (IR), no matter its varied views, endeavors to elucidate world politics utilizing varied instruments(Sachleben, 2014: 29). Bleiker (2001: 509) underscored that we have now grown accustomed to the self-discipline’s “standard’’ understandings, because it adheres to instruments that originate from the seek for well-established procedures of inquiry that pertain to causes and information. Due to this fact, this resulted in a slim understanding of social sciences that managed to dominate a lot of IR scholarship (Bleiker, 2001: 518). Moore and Shepherd (2010: 299) argued that that is as a result of inflexible “definitional boundaries” of the respectable sources of study that didn’t progress a lot because the starting of the self-discipline.

This solid a hierarchy that gave some sources dominance and energy over others. Political speeches, authorities paperwork, and archives are exemplars of those dominant sources (Bleiker, 2001: 518). Due to this fact, standard IR perceives folks from the parameters of the established order (Grayson, 2015). This resulted within the erasure of the politics of illustration, the placement of political struggles (Bleiker, 2001: 518), and suppressed the voices of those that are subordinated.

Apprehending to that, standard IR insists that common tradition corresponding to music, as one other supply of study, isn’t actually worthy of IR scholarly consideration, as it isn’t deemed to be political (Weldes and Rowley, 2015). IR continues to deal with common tradition as a black field of primitivism and irrationalism (Grayson, 2015). Due to this fact, it’s generally uncommon to seek out the mentioning of music in most works of up to date political principle (Avenue, 2012: 140). I underscore right here how music is taken into account to be on the backside of the hierarchy in respectable sources of study. As a younger IR aspiring scholar, it strikes me that I’ve barely been launched to any scholarly work that bridges music with IR. Avenue (2012: 149) acknowledged that music has been significantly marginalized by the relegation of the writers who symbolize this non-conventional custom. The writers who outline the trendy period corresponding to Hobbes and Marx largely uncared for the topic of music in IR and didn’t contemplate it to be helpful to our political accounts (Avenue, 2012: 141). Lastly, Avenue (2012: 143) underscored that solely those that break up from the self-discipline’s standard boundaries will be capable to permit a spot for music in IR evaluation.

Aesthetic flip

Addressing the aforementioned shortcomings of standard IR and its slim boundaries, the aesthetic flip emerged (Moore and Shepherd, 2010: 299). Moderately than specializing in causes and information, the flip advocates utilizing new sources of study that seize feelings and representations to widen the scope of IR (Moore and Shepherd, 2010: 299). Frost (2010: 433) highlighted that it encourages utilizing different interpretive and reflective sources which have been denigrated by the traditional boundaries that largely dominated IR. Accordingly, I reckon that not like standard IR, it acknowledges that domains, aside from these present within the elitist accounts, could be political.

Due to this fact,the flip legitimized unconventional aesthetic sources and types of common tradition corresponding to music slightly than the reliance on authorities paperwork and political speeches as an example (Bleiker, 2001: 526). Accordingly, there was an increase in learning types of common tradition, corresponding to music, and it has been useful to see IR gaining a big momentum exterior its standard facets (Weldes and Rowley, 2015). Utilizing types of common tradition, as a supply of study, opened the potential of perceiving issues and other people away from the “parameters of the established order” that has dominated standard IR scholarship (Grayson, 2015).

Moreover, the flip acknowledges that standard IR’s slim boundaries erased the politics of illustration and the placement of political struggles (Bleiker, 2001: 510). Frost (2010: 440) added that it asserts that utilizing unconventional sources of study, which seize representations and feelings, can present entry to the histories of exclusion, political struggles, and websites of resistance. Due to this fact, by means of the evaluation of music, a brand new reality is skilled that we can not ever attain in every other means (Frost, 2010: 435). This opens new areas for expression to ensure that the voices of the subordinated to be heard (Reeves, 2014: 394). Correspondingly, I maintain that analyzing music can get well the voices of the subordinated, and permit us to understand what may need not been famous earlier than by means of new insights on political occasions from under.

Subaltern Research

Pertaining to this essay’s essential argument, one shall query: what in IR is invested in reaching the voices of those that are subordinated within the elitist accounts? Impressed by the Marxist historic apply of the “histories from under” (Altern, 2012: 59), Subaltern Research emerged in IR to get well the occluded histories of those that are subordinated (Chalcraft, 2008: 376). It has additionally been influenced by the three exemplars of vital approaches to subordination throughout the self-discipline: feminism’s repositioning of gender, post-structuralism’s technique of learning the mode of energy, and post-colonialism’s anti-Eurocentric currents (Chalcraft, 2008: 376). The time period “subaltern”,adopted from Gramsci, refers to a really big selection of teams of who’re politically, socially, ideologically, or economically subordinated and are at inferior rank expressed by way of class, gender, age, and so forth. (Spivak, 1988a: 35). In keeping with Guha and Spivak (1988: vi), the time period “subaltern”is implied to be the other of the dominant and “elite” teams which can be in energy.

As the traditional accounts give its consideration to the dominant teams by its long-standing custom of elitism, Guha (1997: xiv) emphasised that what’s eradicated in these accounts is the subordinated folks’s politics. Due to this fact, Subaltern Research focuses on unmasking the insights which can be exterior these accounts (Webber, 1997: 11). Altern (2012: 61) added that it goals to get well the subaltern’s obliterated company and consciousness. Therefore, it informs a dialogue that counters the elitist bias that has dominated most of standard IR’s tutorial work. Because it continues the investigation into methods wherein the subaltern’s voice is silenced, little consideration has been given to the evaluation of music (Romanow, 2005: 2). Furthermore, Spivak (1988b: 307) argued that the subaltern can’t converse, and its consciousness is inaccessible as its voice will get destroyed and appropriated when others write about it and implement their values upon it.

Acknowledging the issues of recovering the subaltern’s voice from elitist sources and the appropriation of its voice when others write about it, I think about what the aesthetic flip encourages, and I recommend the evaluation of music as a substitute resolution. I declare that the evaluation of music widens the scope of Subaltern Research by firstly revealing the voices of the subaltern, and secondly, by means of understanding the subaltern, by forging new insights on political occasions from under. Webber (1997: 12) affirmed that if it breaks down from “disciplinary boundaries”, it might entry new instruments to achieve the subaltern voices that aren’t beforehand attended to. Shimizu (2013: 62) highlighted that music permits the subaltern to reveal a capability of analyzing circumstances. Therefore, it might reveal its understandings.

Lastly, Subaltern Research emerged in India but additionally impressed tasks corresponding to ones within the Center East (Chalcraft, 2008: 376). Nonetheless, Webber (1997: 11) underlined that Center East students attended little consideration to Subaltern Research. This is because of how subaltern teams’ views are absent or underrepresented in elitist Center Jap archival accounts (Cronin, 2008: 5). As research of protests proved to be helpful, they permit the subaltern’s concepts that may stay hidden in any other case to look (Cronin, 2008: 2). Therefore, I look at the contribution of Subaltern Research to the Center East to scrutinize and reveal my essential argument within the case of the Egyptian 25th of January Revolution.

The Egyptian 25 January 2011 Revolution

Increase on the earlier sections, I illustrate my essential argument by means of scrutinizing the case of Egypt’s twenty fifth of January Revolution. I conduct major and secondary evaluation by methodologically evaluating the lyrics of the up to date nationwide anthem, as an elitist account, and protest songs, because the voices of the subaltern, respectively. The 2 protest songs that will probably be analyzed are: “Izzay?” (“How?”), which was the primary official tune to be nationally and internationally related to the revolution (Mostafa, 2012: 653), and “Sout el Huriyya” (“Voice of freedom”), which was immensely used within the protests (Metwaly, 2011). As an Egyptian native Arabic speaker, I translated these songs and the nationwide anthem and acknowledge right here my positionality.

On the twenty fifth of January 2011, Egyptians protested for 18 days to finish authoritarianism, political corruption, and injustices (Bates, 2012). The protesters had three calls for: bread, freedom, and social justice (Valassopoulos and Mostafa, 2014: 639). Regardless of how President Mubarak’s regime was considered foolproof, protesters have been capable of overthrow this authoritative regime (El-Ghobashy, 2011: 3). I underline right here, to be revisited later, that that is the present standard perception on the revolution. Woltering (2013: 290) famous that the subordinated Egyptians, who have been by no means thought of as political actors, expressed their calls for by protesting. Apprehending to the aforementioned definitions of the “subaltern” and “elite”within the earlier part,I declare that the protestors have been the subaltern, whereas President Mubarak and his regime have been the ruling elite. Spivak (1988a: 41) famous that regardless of how the subaltern is a heterogeneous topic its commonality is resistance to elite domination. Thus, the subaltern, on this case, encompassed completely different teams corresponding to girls, employees, youth, unemployed folks, center class, Copts, and so forth. whom have been all voicing out their collective battle (Kandil, 2012; Delgado, 2015; Nkroti10, 2013).

Highlighting the function of protest music within the revolution, Mostafa (2012: 272) acknowledged that the revolution’s success was achieved not solely by means of group, but additionally by the internationally heard protest songs. Therefore, it was perceived as a productive web site for political engagement that aided within the revolution’s success (Valassopoulos and Mostafa, 2014: 640). Nonetheless, it’s noteworthy to notice that these accounts targeted on how music expressed the revolutionary calls for and attended little or no consideration to the subaltern’s understandings and emotions channeled in them. Ghannam (2012: 32) affirmed that we have now little information on the ideas and emotions of the protesting Egyptians. Due to this fact, to seize these unattended feelings and understandings, I analyze and evaluate the up to date Egyptian nationwide anthem and protest songs respectively.

The up to date Egyptian nationwide anthem was formally adopted in 1979 and has been the nationwide anthem hitherto (Mustafa, 2015: 183). Mustafa (2015: 180) highlighted that nationwide anthems mirror the ruling elite’s ideology, and goal to get folks to implement it. Additionally they conceptualize how the folks ought to understand the nation (Mustafa, 2015: 180). Anderson (1991: 132,145) argues that nations are conceived in language and are “imagined communities”; thus, nationwide anthems echo this. Accordingly, the Egyptian nationwide anthem displays the ruling elite’s perceptions and imaginations on the Egyptian group, and speaks within the identify of the subaltern. As Guha (1997: xiv) famous what’s left unnoted in any elitist account is the politics of the folks and their illustration.

Attending to research it, “Egypt, noble are your kids. Loyal, and guardians of the reins”(Al-Qady, 1878), the country-people dualism is captured in these lyrics and is predicated on loyalty and love (Mustafa, 2015: 190). “My homeland, my homeland, my homeland, you will have my love and my coronary heart” (Al-Qady, 1878), crystallizes the centrality of Egypt the place loyal residents ought to do nothing however like it it doesn’t matter what occurs (Mustafa, 2015: 190). Jorgensen (1990: 25) highlighted that states announce themselves and their photos in nationwide anthems. Due to this fact, I maintain that to additional crystallize the centrality of this picture “Egypt! mom of all lands, you might be my hope and my ambition, and above all folks”(Al-Qady, 1878), conveys how persons are anticipated to understand Egypt to be superior to them. McDonald (2013: 28) underlined that nationalistic music is an efficient imply in fostering a nationwide sentiment that serves a political agenda. Correspondingly, the anthemglorified patriotism wherein the folks ought to solely serve to guard and love the nation and solely insurgent towards the enemy (Mustafa, 2015: 190). Loyalty is glorified that any quick criticism to this narrative will probably be interpreted as unpatriotic (Bloom, 2011: 58). Which I be aware, additional sponsored the subaltern’s subordination and lack of illustration of the folks’s politics.

Attending to research protest music contrarily, Spivak (2005: 477) famous that the non-recognition of the subaltern’s understandings by the elite is an issue of infrastructure’s inadequacy for the subaltern’s voice to be heard. This was evident within the nationwide anthem, because it spoke within the identify of the subaltern obliterating its personal understandings. Due to this fact, for the subaltern to be heard, it has to place its variations apart and set up an infrastructure that allows the popularity of its company and consciousness (Spivak, 2005: 483). I maintain that protest music was the best way to channel that. The primary tune that will probably be analyzed is “Izzay?” (“How?”), and the second is“Sout El-Huriyya” (“Voice of Freedom”).

Within the first tune, “How will you settle for for me, once I deeply love your identify, I can’t discover a purpose to like you, and my sincerity doesn’t even rely”(Nagy, 2011), the protesters right here questioned how might they proceed to like Egypt when she nonetheless hindered them from feeling protected and free (Blair, 2011). Not like what the nationwide anthem conveys, I spotlight right here that the subaltern, talking for itself, voiced out the way it didn’t have the identical love relationship with Egypt. Music as Shimizu (2013: 74) places it “is a world the place the subaltern can symbolize the deepest emotions”; therefore, I maintain that the subaltern articulated its dissent and blame to what Egypt is doing to it. “How will you go away me this weak, why aren’t you standing by my aspect?” (Nagy, 2011), enunciated its anger concerning Egypt’s help of its weak point and subordination.  Furthermore, “I swear by your identify, to maintain altering you until you settle for me the best way I’m”(Nagy, 2011),Blair (2011) underlined that it communicated its unhappiness concerning the scenario Egypt was in, and insisted on altering it to the best way it imagines it to be. Not like the nationwide anthem, Valassopoulos and Mostafa (2014: 646) famous that protest songs expressed the protestors’ capability to withstand, break from dominant ideologies, and articulate its capability in creating a brand new different.

Within the second tune, “I went out and mentioned that I used to be not coming again, and wrote with my very own blood in every avenue, our weapon was our desires, in every avenue of my nation, the voice of freedom is looking” (Eid, 2011), the lyricscaptured the protestors’ sense of hope and the assumption that they lastly have a task and may propagate a change (Valassopoulos and Mostafa, 2014: 643). Due to this fact, not like the nationwide anthem, Rosenthal (2001: 18) famous that music vocalizes concepts about defining the world and oneself. McDonald (2013: 31) acknowledged that music demarcates the boundaries of a discursive subject wherein the concept of the self was engaged towards the dominant order. Accordingly, I spotlight that these lyrics: “A very powerful factor is to get our rights, And to put in writing our personal story with our blood” (Eid, 2011), reveal the way it lastly sees itself getting the possibility of writing its story by means of the revolution in the best way that it imagines.

Successively, these songs didn’t solely present a counter ideology to the elitist nationwide anthem, however as McDonald (2013: 31) highlighted music guides the contributors by means of a community of shared meanings that fostered their very own company and consciousness. I maintain that the evaluation of music by Subaltern Research on this case unmasks the subaltern’s rejection and ache of invisibility, its contradiction to the elitist narrative, and the conclusion of its company in altering its nation. As Cronin (2008: 4) asserted, common protest discourse is an try by the powerless to barter the phrases of change utilizing the instruments obtainable to them. Thus, music serves as riot and resistance to being silenced (Fischlin, 2003: 10). In each songs, I reckon that the subaltern reimagined loyalty and patriotism the place not like what the nationwide anthem prescribed, it might criticize the elitist narrative, blame its personal nation, and goal for a change, and nonetheless be patriotic and dependable. Shalaby (2015: 176) highlighted that protest songs till now present a surge of patriotism for Egyptians who protested and others who couldn’t be a part of however believed within the revolution. The inquiry of music uncovered the protestors’ voice of despair, anger, and reorientation from obedience (LeVine, 2012: 795). Furthermore, music uncovered what was unable to be voiced out earlier than, and made who sing hear itself doing so (Rosenthal, 2001: 13). Due to this fact, I demonstrated that inspecting music broadens Subaltern Research scope firstly by revealing the subaltern’s voice by means of the evaluation of a nonconventional supply wherein the subaltern spoke for itself.

Accordingly, I maintain that revealing the subaltern’s voice, as antecedently illustrated, additionally widens Subaltern Research scope by producing a brand new perception, that complement present ones, on political occasions such because the Egyptian revolution from under. As an illustration, the subaltern on this case revolted as a result of it demanded justice, equality, freedom, and ending authoritarianism as present accounts present; however it additionally did as a result of it reimagined Egypt and its relationship with it in another way than what the elites imagined. In keeping with Ludden (2002: 13), a liberated imagined group can solely come to its personal within the subaltern’s language, which historians can endeavor to recuperate. Right here music was a medium that expressed the view on Egypt from under the place Egypt was configured, critiqued, and reimagined (Mostafa, 2012: 263). Protest music managed to register understandings that would have been misplaced or unnoticed (LeVine, 2012: 795). Because the subaltern doesn’t need to be solely heard but additionally understood (Shimizu, 2013: 66), understanding the subaltern subsidizes understanding a brand new perception on political occasions such because the Egyptian Revolution from under. Lastly, perhaps the subaltern can not converse as others write about it, however the subaltern can sing right here because it speaks for itself.


Regardless that I illustrated that the inquiry of music reveals the voice of the subaltern, I acknowledge that there are three essential limitations that I deem essential to be thought of in any additional analysis. Firstly, I can not generalize and declare entry to the complete subaltern’s voice by means of music. Spivak (2005: 479) famous that the dominant group that workout routines the subaltern operate of hegemony speaks within the identify of its entirety. Due to this fact, acknowledging the hierarchy amongst the subaltern, we should acknowledge that even the subaltern that may sing isn’t the complete subaltern. I underline that as an example within the case of the Revolution it was the dominant group amongst the subaltern who had the aptitude of going to the Sq.. Kandil (2012: 147) affirmed that the subordinated center class was on the forefront of the demonstrations when many peasants as an example hesitated.

Secondly, I acknowledge that non-native language audio system may nonetheless applicable the subaltern’s voice because the songs are topic to translation. Romanow (2005: 10) famous that the lyrics should be heard within the language it’s sung in, thus the subaltern’s voice is perhaps silenced once more by means of the transplantation. There’s an incapability of westerners to talk about and perceive the opposite with out implementing their values upon it (Chattopadhyay and Sarkar, 2005: 360).  Akin to on this case, if the protest songs are translated by non-native Arabic audio system.

Thirdly, I profess the possibility of music’s incapability of giving the subaltern a voice in different circumstances. As Shimizu (2013: 73) highlighted slightly than assuming a universality of a apply, we should always take a apply to disclose an actual situation on this world as an alternative. Due to this fact, I’m not claiming that music has the facility to provide a voice to all subaltern topics, however we might analyze how music gave among the Egyptian subaltern an opportunity to talk for itself.


In conclusion, I argued on this essay that the evaluation of music widens Subaltern Research’ scope in two methods: firstly, by recovering the unattended voice to the subaltern by means of the inquiry of a non-conventional supply, and secondly by understanding new insights on political occasions from under. Increase my argument, I divided the essay into 5 sections. Within the first, I examined Standard IR’s slim boundaries that gave dominance to elitist sources of study corresponding to authorities speeches that obliterated the marginalized voices. Within the second, I launched the aesthetic flip, which inspires utilizing nonconventional sources corresponding to music to seize what has been obliterated. Within the third, I launched Subaltern Research in IR because it’s invested in recovering the voices of who’re subordinated. Recognizing the difficulties of recovering the subaltern’s voice from standard elitist sources and the erasure of its voice when others write about it, I took into consideration what the aesthetic flip advocates and advised the evaluation of music as a substitute supply. Within the fourth, I scrutinized my argument within the case of the Egyptian Revolution by methodologically evaluating the up to date Egyptian nationwide anthem with two protest songs “Izzay” (“How?”) and “Sout El-Huriyya” (“Voice of Freedom”). I illustrated how the evaluation of music broadened the scope of Subaltern research by revealing the Egyptian subaltern’s voice and by understanding a brand new perception on the revolution from under. Within the fifth, I acknowledged that there are 3 limitations to my argument which have been: the shortcoming of asserting entry to the complete subaltern’s voice, the prospect of shedding the subaltern’s voice by means of translation, and the possibility of music’s incapability of unveiling the subaltern’s voice in different circumstances. Lastly, for additional analysis it will be thought scary if we use different non-conventional sources with Subaltern Research to look at in what different methods they are often helpful.


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Written at: The London Faculty of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
Written for: Theories of Worldwide Relations
Date written: April 2017

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