The Sound of the Egyptian Subaltern in 2011 Revolutionary Protest Songs


“How we’d persuade the skeptic, specifically skeptical political scientists, that music issues, that music is politics. Can we present that had 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 aren’t launched to tutorial works that use music as a supply of study. Bleiker (2001: 518) underscored that typical IR’s slim boundaries legitimized some sources of study, equivalent to political speeches and authorities paperwork, over others. By way of these elitist sources (Grayson, 2015), typical IR eradicated the politics of illustration and political struggles (Bleiker, 2011: 518). This usually obliterated the voices of who’re subordinated. Correspondingly, Frost (2010: 440) famous that the aesthetic flip emerged as a break from these typical boundaries and inspired utilizing non-conventional sources, equivalent to music, to succeed in 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 handle 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 via the inquiry of a non-conventional supply, and secondly, via understanding the subaltern, by forging new insights on political occasions from under. Increase my argument, I divide this piece into 5 sections. Firstly, I study typical IR and its slim boundaries. Secondly, I introduce the aesthetic flip. Thirdly, I current Subaltern Research inside IR. Fourthly, in utility of the earlier sections, I reveal my evaluation via the Egyptian January 25th Revolution’s case particularly chosen for 2 causes: research of protests proved to be helpful 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 modern nationwide anthem and two of probably the most well-known protest songs. Lastly, I reckon the three limitations to my argument that are: the lack of accessing the voice of your entire subaltern, the opportunity of the appropriation of the subaltern’s voice via translation, and the prospect of music’s incapacity of giving the subaltern a voice in different instances.

Typical Worldwide Relations

Worldwide Relations (IR), no matter its numerous views, endeavors to clarify world politics utilizing numerous instruments(Sachleben, 2014: 29). Bleiker (2001: 509) underscored that we’ve grown accustomed to the self-discipline’s “typical’’ understandings, because it adheres to instruments that originate from the seek for well-established procedures of inquiry that pertain to causes and info. 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 authentic sources of study that didn’t progress a lot because the starting of the self-discipline.

This cast 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, typical IR perceives folks from the parameters of the established order (Grayson, 2015). This resulted within the erasure of the politics of illustration, the situation of political struggles (Bleiker, 2001: 518), and suppressed the voices of those that are subordinated.

Apprehending to that, typical IR insists that standard tradition equivalent to music, as one other supply of study, will not be actually worthy of IR scholarly consideration, as it’s not deemed to be political (Weldes and Rowley, 2015). IR continues to deal with standard 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 concept (Avenue, 2012: 140). I underscore right here how music is taken into account to be on the backside of the hierarchy in authentic 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) said 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 equivalent to Hobbes and Marx largely uncared for the topic of music in IR and didn’t think about 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 typical boundaries will be capable to permit a spot for music in IR evaluation.

Aesthetic flip

Addressing the aforementioned shortcomings of typical IR and its slim boundaries, the aesthetic flip emerged (Moore and Shepherd, 2010: 299). Quite than specializing in causes and info, 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 standard boundaries that largely dominated IR. Accordingly, I reckon that not like typical IR, it acknowledges that domains, aside from these present within the elitist accounts, may be political.

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

Moreover, the flip acknowledges that typical IR’s slim boundaries erased the politics of illustration and the situation 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, via the evaluation of music, a brand new fact is skilled that we can’t ever attain in some other manner (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 better the voices of the subordinated, and permit us to understand what may need not been famous earlier than via new insights on political occasions from under.

Subaltern Research

Pertaining to this essay’s important 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 observe of the “histories from under” (Altern, 2012: 59), Subaltern Research emerged in IR to get better 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 on. (Spivak, 1988a: 35). In response to 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 standard 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 better the subaltern’s obliterated company and consciousness. Therefore, it informs a dialogue that counters the elitist bias that has dominated most of typical IR’s tutorial work. Because it continues the investigation into methods through which 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 counsel the evaluation of music instead answer. I declare that the evaluation of music widens the scope of Subaltern Research by firstly revealing the voices of the subaltern, and secondly, via 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 succeed in 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 will probably reveal its understandings.

Lastly, Subaltern Research emerged in India but additionally impressed initiatives equivalent 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 study the contribution of Subaltern Research to the Center East to scrutinize and reveal my important 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 important argument via scrutinizing the case of Egypt’s twenty fifth of January Revolution. I conduct major and secondary evaluation by methodologically evaluating the lyrics of the modern nationwide anthem, as an elitist account, and protest songs, because the voices of the subaltern, respectively. The 2 protest songs that shall 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 had been in a position to overthrow this authoritative regime (El-Ghobashy, 2011: 3). I underline right here, to be revisited later, that that is the present typical perception on the revolution. Woltering (2013: 290) famous that the subordinated Egyptians, who had 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 had been the subaltern, whereas President Mubarak and his regime had 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 equivalent to ladies, staff, youth, unemployed folks, center class, Copts, and so on. whom had been all voicing out their collective wrestle (Kandil, 2012; Delgado, 2015; Nkroti10, 2013).

Highlighting the position of protest music within the revolution, Mostafa (2012: 272) said that the revolution’s success was achieved not solely via group, but additionally by the internationally heard protest songs. Therefore, it was perceived as a productive website for political engagement that aided within the revolution’s success (Valassopoulos and Mostafa, 2014: 640). Nonetheless, it’s noteworthy to notice that these accounts centered 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’ve 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 examine the modern Egyptian nationwide anthem and protest songs respectively.

The modern 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 purpose to get folks to implement it. In addition 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 neighborhood, and speaks within the title 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 youngsters. 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 could have my love and my coronary heart” (Al-Qady, 1878), crystallizes the centrality of Egypt the place loyal residents ought to do nothing however adore it it doesn’t matter what occurs (Mustafa, 2015: 190). Jorgensen (1990: 25) highlighted that states announce themselves and their photographs in nationwide anthems. Due to this fact, I maintain that to additional crystallize the centrality of this picture “Egypt! mom of all lands, you’re 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 through which 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 rapid criticism to this narrative shall be interpreted as unpatriotic (Bloom, 2011: 58). Which I word, additional backed 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 title 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 permits the popularity of its company and consciousness (Spivak, 2005: 483). I maintain that protest music was the way in which to channel that. The primary tune that shall be analyzed is “Izzay?” (“How?”), and the second is“Sout El-Huriyya” (“Voice of Freedom”).

Within the first tune, “How are you going to settle for for me, once I deeply love your title, I can’t discover a cause 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). In contrast to 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 are you going to depart me this weak, why aren’t you standing by my aspect?” (Nagy, 2011), enunciated its anger relating to Egypt’s help of its weak spot and subordination.  Furthermore, “I swear by your title, to maintain altering you until you settle for me the way in which 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 way in which it imagines it to be. In contrast to 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 potential in creating a brand new different.

Within the second tune, “I went out and stated 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 asking” (Eid, 2011), the lyricscaptured the protestors’ sense of hope and the assumption that they lastly have a task and might 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) said that music demarcates the boundaries of a discursive discipline through which the thought of the self was engaged towards the dominant order. Accordingly, I spotlight that these lyrics: “Crucial factor is to get our rights, And to jot down our personal story with our blood” (Eid, 2011), reveal the way it lastly sees itself getting the prospect of writing its story via the revolution in the way in which 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 individuals via 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, standard protest discourse is an try by the powerless to barter the phrases of change utilizing the instruments out there 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 purpose for a change, and nonetheless be patriotic and constant. Shalaby (2015: 176) highlighted that protest songs till now present a surge of patriotism for Egyptians who protested and others who couldn’t be 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 analyzing music broadens Subaltern Research scope firstly by revealing the subaltern’s voice via the evaluation of a nonconventional supply through which 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. For example, 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 response to Ludden (2002: 13), a liberated imagined neighborhood 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 might have been misplaced or unnoticed (LeVine, 2012: 795). Because the subaltern doesn’t wish 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, possibly the subaltern can’t converse as others write about it, however the subaltern can sing right here because it speaks for itself.


Although I illustrated that the inquiry of music reveals the voice of the subaltern, I acknowledge that there are three important limitations that I deem essential to be thought of in any additional analysis. Firstly, I can’t generalize and declare entry to your entire subaltern’s voice via music. Spivak (2005: 479) famous that the dominant group that workouts the subaltern operate of hegemony speaks within the title of its entirety. Due to this fact, acknowledging the hierarchy amongst the subaltern, we should acknowledge that even the subaltern that may sing will not be your entire subaltern. I underline that as an example within the case of the Revolution it was the dominant group amongst the subaltern who had the potential 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 would possibly nonetheless acceptable 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 may be silenced once more via the transplantation. There may be an incapacity 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 prospect of music’s incapacity of giving the subaltern a voice in different instances. As Shimizu (2013: 73) highlighted moderately than assuming a universality of a observe, we must always take a observe to disclose an actual situation on this world as a substitute. 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 a few of 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 via 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 Typical IR’s slim boundaries that gave dominance to elitist sources of study equivalent to authorities speeches that obliterated the marginalized voices. Within the second, I launched the aesthetic flip, which inspires utilizing nonconventional sources equivalent 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 typical elitist sources and the erasure of its voice when others write about it, I took into consideration what the aesthetic flip advocates and recommended the evaluation of music instead supply. Within the fourth, I scrutinized my argument within the case of the Egyptian Revolution by methodologically evaluating the modern 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 had been: the lack of asserting entry to your entire subaltern’s voice, the prospect of shedding the subaltern’s voice via translation, and the prospect of music’s incapability of unveiling the subaltern’s voice in different instances. Lastly, for additional analysis it could 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 College of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
Written for: Theories of Worldwide Relations
Date written: April 2017

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