After Tahrir Conference

After I left the Tahir conference, I felt as if I had stepped into a new world. The world I have heard of many times but never really got to hear about it first hand. I was so moved by all the of powerful energy I felt projected throughout the room, by people who had a close relationship to Egypt or lived there at some point. There was pride, pain, hope, and memories spoken by people in the conference. I was given the privilege to attend two panels one titled, Morbid Symptoms of Rule:the Invincible State, the Vulnerable State and another titled Bodies and Spaces: Moral Panics, Revolution, and Counterrevolution. 

My favorite speakers from the first panel I listened to was Lina Attalah and Omar Robert Hamiltons. Lina really emphasized on how the Regime and State were different and if they could truly be seen as separate. Separate meaning if you could rule the state without owning it or own the state without ruling it. She also mentioned how Muslim Brothers failed to be guardians of the State. Omar Robert focused more on the economic aspect within Egypt. He brings up the importance the oil trade between Italy and Egypt and how it helped sustain their economy. This trade enabled the use of being able to make crude, petroleum, and refined oils. Robert also mentions how it was not just Italy that traded resources with them but Israel had a great influence as throughout many years. Recently there was an oil discovery in Egypt with the net cost of around 50 billion euro dollars which can help Egypt come to a stable state. The talks were both very intricate and detailed within the Regime and knowing the economical stance Egypt is in.

The second panel I heard from was Yahia Mohammad and Magda Boutrous both spoke about different issues in Egypt. Yahia Mohammad talked about queerness, skin color, and ethnicity affected him in Egypt. He addresses how difficult it is for him to be able to identify where people wanted him to belong. Mohammad was an activist in the queer movement and brought about issues in the political field. Even though these ethnicity and queer issues were an ongoing problem it was hard to talk about them because there were bigger issues like the revolution with the State. A great example he uses to explain his speech was, “Do I define identity? or Does identity define me?” This was a continuous thought he had and something that really got me thinking as well. Magda Boutrous was by far one of the most interesting and deep talks I heard from the two panels. She explains the research field study she was conducting which he ultimately decided to stop doing. Boutrous talks about her personal experience working in an physically and mentally draining environment with people who are prisoners. She wanted to get a firsthand experience and comments from people who were in captivity and know what lead them to be prisoners. People explained doing nothing, some defied the rules, and others were activists. The main reason which lead her to stop her field study was really moving and she was able to explain to others that it is okay to stop doing a research study when it is putting you messing with your sanity.

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After Tahrir Conference

R-Shief, users and translation

One aspect that I found especially fascinating during the R-Shief lecture was the question on whether more data about the users should be collected. Professor Sakr stated her concern for the user’s security since the R-Shief software might not only be used by people with academic intentions. Governments or other groups might try to find out which users are spreading opinions that oppose their agenda and try to mute, imprison, torture or even kill them. The question on whether scientists should be held responsible on what others do with their findings is not new and in this case I am with Professor Sakr. It is of course interesting to learn more about the users, but the negative consequences of creating such an open-source software are too blatant and likely to ignore. The helpful insights that scholars might get cannot outweigh the fact that such a tool might lead to the killing of human beings fighting for their rights.

Another highly discussed issue was the aspect of translation. R-Shief does not translate any of its findings and Professor Sakr explained that with the unreliableness of automatic translation tools. She furthermore said that if one wants to do research on a country, one should either study the language or at least consult a translator as that is going to lead to a far better understanding than just looking at a automatically translated text. While automatic translation tools might have improved over the last years, they are still not as intelligent as a human being can be. Language is such an important part of culture and it shapes our understanding of the world, language itself transmits more than the mere content. Automatic translation tools might face problems if there is no linguistic equivalent, if different dialogues are used or puns are made. One video that adequately shows that automatic translations should not blindly be trusted can be found below.

R-Shief, users and translation