Culture and Colonialism: The 1916 Tercentenary in Egypt

Karma Sami*, Monika Smialkowska*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

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The 300th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death in 1916 coincided with an unprecedented political crisis across the globe. The outbreak of the First World War in 1914 brought to the fore the ambitions of the established and would-be colonial powers, conflicts between and within existing nation states, and disenfranchised groups’ aspirations for self-determination. Recent scholarship has demonstrated how the 1916 Shakespearean commemorations in countries such as Britain, Germany, Ireland, and the USA registered these political upheavals. However, research into the Shakespeare Tercentenary has so far neglected Egypt’s complex response to the occasion. Amidst developing political tensions, which were to culminate in the Revolution of 1919, Egyptian intellectuals nevertheless chose to commemorate Shakespeare’s Tercentenary. These commemorations, however, were marked by ambivalence: while expressing admiration for Shakespeare, Egyptian commentators questioned the appropriateness of celebrating an English writer instead of promoting Egypt’s, and the Arabs’, own national literature. This chapter examines the manifestations of these conflicting feelings, ranging from the heated press debates surrounding the occasion, through Cairo University’s celebrations, to tributes published by individual intellectuals, such as Ahmad Lutfi al-Sayyid and Mohammed Hafiz Ibrahim. In doing so, the chapter explores the ambiguities created by celebrating a cultural anniversary at a historical moment fraught with acute colonial tensions.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMemorialising Shakespeare
Subtitle of host publicationCommemoration and Collective Identity, 1916–2016
EditorsEdmund G. C. King, Monika Smialkowska
Place of PublicationCham, Switzerland
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages27
ISBN (Electronic)9783030840136
ISBN (Print)9783030840129
Publication statusPublished - 18 Dec 2021

Publication series

NamePalgrave Shakespeare Studies
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
ISSN (Print)2731-3204


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