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“Expectation kills. Please do not expect.” Ethnography of an Egyptian Middle Class Family after the Storm.

Abstract : This paper attempts to make sense of the unfulfilled aspirations of a family living in a peripheral region of Egypt. It builds on a long-term ethnographic research in immersion inside this family and draws on the dialogical ethnography method inspired by Samuli Schielke’s seminal work on everyday life experiences of male youth in rural Egypt. As Schielke has shown (2008), boredom was a key experience in youth lives, which did not derive from monotony itself, but from the “capacity to aim for more and to become aware that there is an alternative to the monotony”. The 2011 Revolution triggered many “aims for more” for most Egyptians. The 2013 military coup was a much more ambivalent event in this regard: the “stormy season” closed alternative paths while also nurturing powerful promises of stability and decent life (Schielke, 2017). Then, with the storm dissipating, a slow erosion of opportunities for better positions now constrain people’s hope in achieving their “aims for more” – although those are still vivid longings. This erosion is exemplified, in particular, by the inflation of prices generated by a new set of economic policies. How have the three sequences of “revolution-storm-dissipation” reconfigured the expectations in life of ordinary people? Have the “aims for more” intensified and rendered boredom even stronger? How have the macrolevel political and socio-economic changes impacted the living and imaginative conditions of ordinary families? There is ground for saying that each Egyptian family presents singular features and asperities that make it uncommon in some way. So does the family that I investigate here. But it fits with the “ordinary” sociological pattern of a certain stratum of middle classes in Egypt: now owners of a small grocery, the father used to be a school teacher and the mother a housewife raising their six children. They have a past migration experience in the Gulf that made it possible for them to buy a land and build the family house. Small-size familial enterprise, governmental job and migration are key aspects of a normal decent life in Egypt. However, as I will show, the storm and the erosion have threatened their decent lives in many ways. While parents worry about their grown-up children’s destinies, the latter face growing difficulties getting married and working, struggle not to fall, but also consume anxiolytics and express despair, just as the youngest son writing on his Facebook wall: “Expectation kills. Please do not expect.”
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https://hal.inria.fr/hal-03334939
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Submitted on : Sunday, September 5, 2021 - 4:50:42 PM
Last modification on : Monday, March 21, 2022 - 1:06:02 AM

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Marie Vannetzel. “Expectation kills. Please do not expect.” Ethnography of an Egyptian Middle Class Family after the Storm.. Annual Meeting of the Middle East Studies Association, Nov 2019, New Orleans, United States. ⟨hal-03334939⟩

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