Saturday, 16 March 2013

Political change and emerging subcultures: Egypt as an example

The reason why sociologists started studying the formation, evolution and effects of subcultures in the 1960's was the fact that subcultures reflect something more than just a 'style'. Although some of these subcultures, especially the hippie-related ones, may seem ephemeral or superficial, beneath this perceived triviality lies something that is quite profound and significant.  Bearded Islamists or much-maligned hipsters are not simply diversions of mainstream society but rather an 'evolutionary' result of socio-cultural changes.


In Egypt, one might argue that the rapid emergence of many unique formations of youth subcultures is mainly driven by the transitory political scene. Rapid political transformations always send a shockwave across society and often produce a margin of time for suppressed subcultures to grow. For example, Ian Law's book, Red Racism: Racism in Communist and Post-Communist contexts, explains the formation of organised racist skinhead gangs in central and eastern Europe following the collaps of the Soviet Union. The recent Egyptian 'revolution' has induced many interesting youth subcultures which are very indicative of Egypt's future. 

I was recently watching an episode of 'Al-Bernameg', a satire show presented by Bassem Yousef, who started his career as a comedian in response to the Egyptian 'revolution'. Durring the show, Yousef introduced 'Like Jelly', a band, which by their own words, "translates aggression into a mellow sound". Like Jelly, as a representative of Egypt's new subcultures, proves that the consequences of political change on subcultures' formation are aslo evident within the  creative young Egyptians musicians, filmmakers and writers. Interestingly, the vocabulary to describe such youth subcultures has shifted from haraam (sinful), weird, offensive to creative, fashionable and nice!

Like Jelly: El-Doodah