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Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Mr Carl Rommel

MA in Migration and Diaspora Studies (SOAS), MSc in Sociotechnical Systems Engineering (Uppsala University), BA in History of Science and Ideas (Uppsala University)


Carl Rommel
Mr Carl Rommel
Email address:
Thesis title:
The Cultural Work that Football Does: interrogating emotionality, infrastructures and subjectivities along circulations of Egypt’s changing national game (working title)
Year of Study:
3rd Year
Internal Supervisors

PhD Research

My research explores some developments in the emotional and affective politics surrounding Egyptian football in the late Mubarak era as well as during the first two years after the 2011 uprising. In the first decade of the new millennium, football emerged as one of Egypt’s most influential popular cultural phenomena, as large scale semi-public investments, a new booming satellite media industry and an unprecedented period of success on the pitch all came together in a heavily politicised, nationalist and emotionally charged hype around the game. In the years directly after the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak – when I conducted 20 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Cairo – emotions, affect and belongings for and to the game were however quickly withering away, and football was often considered part of a past that the many people I met wanted to distancing themselves from. However, simultaneously a new type of football fans – the young and in many ways revolutionary ‘Ultras’ from the two Cairo clubs al-Ahly and al-Zamalek – were at times playing central roles in the political struggle, at the stadiums as well as in the streets of Cairo, and especially so after the massacre of 72 al-Ahly Ultras at the stadium in Port Said in February 2012.

My thesis takes an interest in this quick transformation from hype to neglect, by asking questions of how and why the strong emotions and affect that used to move many Egyptian men so strongly could disappear so rapidly. Approaching football as a social assemblage of matches, urban space, big business, media and narrations, I detail contestations between competing emotional and generational subjectivities related to the sport, subjectivities that always seem to be located in the framework of the Egyptian nation. In the wake of the 2011 revolution, Egyptian football was in many ways going through a crisis. In this period of diminishing interest, media attention and revenues, people relating to the game were constantly discussing how to change the sport so to better suit the ‘new’ and ‘revolutionary’ Egypt that was taking shape. Paying close attention to how these debates very often revolved around how to properly and appropriately feel for the sport, my thesis argues that the varying emotional practices surrounding football can tell us a great deal about how emotional national subjectivities were re-shaped – yet still also surprisingly stable – in the period right after the 2011 revolution when concepts such as stability, security, generation and the state itself were rapidly being re-negotiated.

PhD Publications

  • Rommel, Carl (2011) “Playing with difference: football as a performative space for division among Suryoye migrants in Sweden” Soccer & Society, 12, 850-864
  • Rommel, Carl (2010) “Assyrians or Syriacs? Middle Eastern identity formation through football in Sweden” Viewpoints special edition: Sports and The Middle East, The Middle East Institute, Washington DC, May 2010

PhD Conferences

  • Rommel, Carl (2013) “The Breaking of a bubble: State-controlled, commercialised football under Mubarak, and the challenge from Cairo’s revolutionary Ultras”, presented at IUAES 2013, Manchester, UK, 5-10 August, 2013
  • Rommel, Carl (2013) “When Affect is no more: exploring alterations in football’s ability to affect from the late Mubarak era until the present”, presented at ‘Affective politics in transitional North Africa: Imagining the future’, at the Swedish Institute, Alexandria, Egypt, 27-28 May, 2013
  • Rommel, Carl (2012) “Researching a dismantling emotional assemblage: on the problems of conducting research on Egyptian football after the 2011 revolution”, presented at ‘CBRC Research Symposium: Asking Questions in Revolutionary Times’ at DAAD, German Academic Exchange Service, Cairo, Egypt, 11-13 October, 2012
  • Ahlberg, Karin and Rommel, Carl (2012) “Introduction: living and researching (in) uncertainty after the fall of Mubarak” presented at ‘The European Association of Social Anthropologists’ biennial conference EASA2012 at Nanterre University, Paris, 10-13 July, 2012. I was also co-organising the workshop during which this paper was presented, called ‘Living Uncertainty: Navigating gray-zones of unreliable realities in the Middle East’ together with Karin Ahlberg (SOAS) and Annika Rabo (Stockholm University)
  • Rommel, Carl (2010) “Playing with difference: football as a performative space for division among Suryoye migrants in Sweden”, presented at ‘Centres and Peripheries in Sport’ at Malmö University, Sweden 8-12 April, 2010
  • Rommel, Carl (2009) “Real Play: Suryoye identity formation in Sweden through the performative space of football”, presented at ‘Global Football: History, Gender and Nation’ at York University, Canada, 3-5 Dec. 2009.


  • SOAS Research Fellowship, 2010-2014
  • Visiting Fellow without Stipend, American University in Cairo 2011-2012



Emotionality, affect, media infrastructure, football, fan culture, urban space, nationalism, Cairo, Egypt, masculinity.