Talk: Organized by MENA Prison Forum & UMAM D&R
The State and the Islamists in the 20th Century in Egypt
Via Zoom
SEP 21, 2023

A Conversation with Michael Farquhar 

Date and Time: Thursday, September 21, 2023 at 8:00 PM (Beirut Time)

Language: English with Arabic Translation 

Moderation: Mina Ibrahim 

While a lot has been said about Islamists as agents of violence, recent developments – including a decade of intense repression targeting the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt – have underscored the need for nuanced attention to Islamists’ own experiences on the receiving end of state violence. Moving beyond debates in political science about whether state repression incentivizes Islamists to take up arms, this talk will instead ask: How have Islamists found meaning in such potentially brutaliZing experiences? And how has this contributed to shaping the distinctive ways of thinking, feeling and acting that animate them as moral and political agents?

The talk will focus on the series of crackdowns from the late 1940s to the early 1970s known to Brotherhood supporters in Egypt as the mihan, or tribulations, which featured extrajudicial killings, arrests, torture and executions comparable with those seen today. It will draw on Arabic-language materials of kinds seldom used in research on Islamism – including prison memoirs, activists’ own historiography, and their poems, songs and novels – to illuminate the symbols, stories and practices that they developed to make sense of these experiences, and through which they sought to sustain themselves in the face of the degrading effects of violence. 

Michael Farquhar completed his PhD in the Department of Government at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He also holds an MA in Near and Middle Eastern Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies and a BA in Philosophy from the University of Cambridge. He has been an LSE Fellow and a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the Department of Politics and International Studies at SOAS.

He is currently undertaking research on the history and politics of policing in twentieth-century Egypt, with an eye to the ways in which discourses and practices of policing have been implicated in the maintenance and refashioning of social, political and economic order.

Michael Farquhar has also written on Saudi state-funded Islamic missionary work in the twentieth century, addressing themes of Salafism, Islamic education, religious transnationalism and religious economies. His book on this subject, Circuits of Faith: Migration, Education and the Wahhabi Mission (Stanford University Press, 2016), received an honourable mention in the International Studies Association's Religion and International Relations Book Award. It draws on research undertaken for his doctoral thesis, which received an honourable mention in the Middle East Studies Association Malcolm H. Kerr Award for Best Dissertation in the Social Sciences and won the Association for Gulf and Arabian Peninsula Studies Dissertation Award. His work has also appeared in the International Journal of Middle East Studies.