All that is Banned is Desired: ‘Rebel Documentaries’ and the Representation of Egyptian Revolutionaries


  • Ilka Eickhof NVIC Netherlands-Flemish Institute in Cairo; University of Amsterdam



Representation, Othering, Revolutionary Art, Symbolic Capital, Egypt


Related to the increasing attention to socalled Egyptian revolutionary graffiti, one can also observe the appearance of "Rebel-Documentaries", focusing on a similar group of protagonists: young, mostly male (graffiti) artists and revolutionaries. In this article, I will take a closer look at a selection of these documentaries and their inherent power structures that frame the representational mechanics with a focus on the western notion of "the revolutionary rebel". The case examples are: Abdo–Coming of Age in a Revolution (Jakob Gross, 2015); Art War (Marco Wilms, 2014); Al Midan–The Square (Jehane Noujaim, 2013); and The Noise of Cairo–Art, Cairo and Revolution (Heiko Lange, 2012). All four focus on the role and the supposedly "free, rebellious spirit" of the young generation in Egypt. Although taking different perspectives, the films sketch out a snap shot of a generation that is caught in an ongoing violent revolutionary process by (re)presenting a specific rebellious Egyptian identity. In discussing the works, I will look at different intertwined representational effects that are related to the composition, realization and commercialization of the films. Finally, the article raises questions about the self-positionality of the protagonists as well as to the localization of the films, and the existence of embedded power structures and symbolic capital complicit with neoliberal and other pressures.


Ilka Eickhof, NVIC Netherlands-Flemish Institute in Cairo; University of Amsterdam

(MA in Islamic Studies, Sociology and Modern History) works at the Netherlands-Flemish Institute in Cairo as a PhD researcher and lecturer. Her PhD dissertation analyses Northern European cultural institutions in Cairo 2011-2015 (University of Amsterdam). Her research focuses on postcolonial critique, politics of representation, and Bourdieusian theory. Her publications include Antimuslimischer Rassismus in Deutschland. Theoretische Überlegungen (2010); "My Friend, the Rebel. Structures and Dynamics of Cultural Foreign Funding in Cairo" (2014), and "Graffiti, Capital and Deciding What's Inappropriate" (2015).






Eickhof, I. „All That Is Banned Is Desired: ‘Rebel Documentaries’ and the Representation of Egyptian Revolutionaries“. Middle East - Topics & Arguments, Bd. 6, Mai 2016, S. 13-22, doi:10.17192/meta.2016.6.3801.