SOAS University of London

Centre for Media Studies, School of Arts

Rounwah Adly Riyadh Bseiso

BA (McGill), MA (AUC), MA (SOAS)
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Rounwah Bseiso
Rounwah Adly Riyadh Bseiso
Email address:
Thesis title:
From the State to the Streets of Cairo: Understandings of Art in the Aftermath of the Egyptian Uprising
Year of Study:
Final Year
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PhD Research

In the wake of the 2011 Egyptian uprising, a self-proclaimed “cultural revolution” was celebrated for its very visible and creative manifestation in public spaces, a display that stood in defiance of a state which, like its regional counterparts, dominated the cultural field and outlined the acceptable parameters in which cultural activities are allowed to operate. However, the socio-aesthetic analysis of art in the aftermath of the uprising was repeatedly reduced to the notion that it was acting as a representation of the revolution, and the new aesthetic displays were depicted as a “cultural awakening.”

This thesis takes an alternative approach to prominent understandings of art in the aftermath of the Egyptian uprising which focused largely on the political efficacy, form and content of the image, and instead asks how the meaning and role of art was being discussed and renegotiated in the aftermath of the Egyptian uprising. Based on in-depth, open-ended interviews with twenty-five cultural producers (loosely connected artists and non-artists from various social, professional, and academic backgrounds) in Cairo, this research examines the conceptions and perceptions that inspire those involved in the visual contemporary production of what has been labelled as “revolutionary” art. In doing so, it aims to understand why people create art, how their engagement affects their understanding of art and how this relates to—and informs—their approach to art. As such, it examines what the cultural producers themselves say about their involvement in the creation of art and how their understandings of art are influenced by their personal histories and their desire to revolutionize the process of art.

By doing so, this research hopes to provide an original, nuanced examination of art in terms of how it is seen from “below” within a particular moment in Egypt’s political and cultural history. By utilising an approach which places emphasis on the significance of context and localised discourse, this research hopes to contributes to understandings of art in the Egyptian context which extends beyond “top-down” examinations which largely favour state-based and political economy approaches.


  • Book Chapter (forthcoming), entitled 'Making Art Relevant: The Cultural Politics of the Egyptian Street after the Uprising'
  • Journal article (forthcoming), entitled 'Revolutionizing Art and Locating its Potential for Liberation on Cairo’s Streets'


  • Troubled Contemporary Art Practices in the Middle East: Post-colonial conflicts, Pedagogies of Art History, and Precarious Artistic Mobilization, June 2016. Presenter on the Political Art Panel – “Revolutionizing Art on Cairo’s Streets” (Organized by Birkbeck University of London and the University of Nicosia, and held at the University of Nicosia, Cyprus).
  • Techniques of Art and Protest, King’s College London, September 2015. Presenter on the Art, Activism, & Institutions Panel - “Contesting the Role and Relationship of Art and the Political in the Streets of Cairo”. Organised by the Politically Led Art & Networked Knowledge (PLANK) research group, and supported by the Graduate School at Goldsmiths College, and the Department of Culture, Media & Creative Industries, King’s College London.


  • London Middle East Institute (LMEI)
  • Membership with the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies (BRISMES)


  • Cultural Studies
  • International Development
  • Media Studies
  • Political Communication
  • Politics
  • International Human Rights Law
  • Refugees
  • Palestine
  • Middle East Studies
  • Middle East Politics
  • Visual Culture Studies