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Sherine Hamdy: All Eyes on Egypt: Religion and the Medical Use of Dead Bodies amidst Cairo's Political Unrest

This talk takes the phenomenon of mass eye trauma and cornea donation in Egypt in order to interrogate how and when “religion” as an analytical category helps explain political and social events. I ask: when do we recognize religion as a social force in people’s lives? Injuries to the eye became a regular feature of Egypt’s popular uprisings that began in 2011. In response to the riot police’s violence against protesters, including the targeting of their eyes, a group of young doctors calling themselves ‘Atibaa `Uyun al-Thawra (“The Revolution’s Eye Doctors”) began a well-received cornea donation campaign on social media. Within hours, hundreds of people signed up to donate their body parts after their death. Why was the argument about giving up body parts in death for the sake of the living compelling now in Egypt, when it had not been in the past?  Was it that the revolutionaries’ “secular” movement inspired new attitudes toward the significance of the human body and death? I use this incidence to work against a dominant “secular vs. religious” narrative that, I argue, mischaracterizes both Egyptian popular politics and the way in which medical and health issues are experienced and lived.



Thursday, October 30, 2014. 12:15PM


Encina Hall West, Room 208 (616 Serra Street)


Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies




Free and open to the public