When the Lights Go Down in Cairo

Walter Armbrust

in Cairo Cosmopolitan

Published by American University in Cairo Press

Published in print October 2009 | ISBN: 9789774162893
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9781617970269 | DOI:
When the Lights Go Down in Cairo

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Filmgoing in downtown Cairo had long taken place in the gap between official hopes for cinema as a vehicle for socially edifying purposes, and the unpredictable reality of audiences in movie theaters. Certainly by the late 1980s, movie theaters had lost favor in the eyes of cultural gatekeepers. Male youth had taken them over. Elites willfully mischaracterized these young men as a barbarian invasion of lower-class “tradesmen,” thereby obfuscating a phenomenon that was, in reality, connected to a broad downgrading of middle-class fortunes in the post-Nasser era. As open-market economies inexorably became the only policy choice on offer, promises made in an earlier era of social advancement through education began to ring hollow. The life stage of the “student” began to look like a prison sentence as it elongated into eternity, while marriage—traditionally the boundary between childhood and adulthood—receded into the distance.

Keywords: filmgoing; Cairo; cinema; movie theaters; young men; lower-class tradesmen; open-market economies; education; student; social advancement

Chapter.  12744 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: International Relations

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