Al-Masri Effendi: The Caricatured Image of the Reading public; A Reflection of Modern Egyptian National Identity

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    • Presentation speakers
      • Keren Zdafee, The Department of Art History Faculty of the Arts, Tel-Aviv University, Israel


    Satiric imagery in the Interwar Egyptian press (1919-1936) reflects the interactions between the semi-colonial hegemony and the emerging Egyptian national self-image, within the context of Egypt’s transition from an Ottoman vilayet to a nation-state. The satirical images (caricatures, cartoons and illustrations) represented and expressed the discourses engaging with the roles of the two political cultures – Egyptian and European – contending for hegemony over the nature of the new Egyptian national culture. These images mapped the changing human and urban fabric, disseminated and instilled its symbols whereby the local modern community could interpret their changing reality. The caricatured image of al-Masri Effendi, a middle aged man in a western suit, wearing a Turkish fez, holding prayer beads in his hand, first appeared in the Egyptian satirical press in late 1920s. This image, whose visual sources were derived from both the local visual repertoire and Western satirical templates (European and American), initially served as the voice of the reading public. By analyzing the satirical imagery from the prominent Interwar Egyptian satirical periodicals (al-Kashkul, Ruz al-Yusuf and Akher Sa’a), I seek to show how throughout the 1930s, al-Masri Effendi, often presented in research as a pitiful bureaucrat, came to be the reflection of the emerging Egyptian middle class or the modern Egyptian public, a sort of an “ideal citizen”, bearing the national mission. Thus al-Masri Effendi embodied the notion of a modern national identity, “the true Egyptian”. His satirical image reveals a process of cultural transfer, one that was essential to the emergence of the Egyptian middle class, while seeking to define and shape its national identity and culture.