Reviewer Luiz Rojo | Review

#405 All Work and No Play? Economic pressures and bodily pleasures in contemporary Egypt

Coresponding author's contact details

First name Carl Middle name Last name Rommel
Title Postdoctoral Researcher Organization / Institution University of Helsinki Department n/a
Address Köpenhamnsg. 3 Postal / Zip code 75264 Country SE
E-Mail Hidden Phone number Hidden Presenting author Yes

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Abstract title

All Work and No Play? Economic pressures and bodily pleasures in contemporary Egypt

Abstract text

This paper ponders on a conundrum in contemporary Cairo. On the one hand, a seemingly never-ending economic crisis permeates social life. For many men, working extra jobs beside university studies or one’s primary profession has become necessary for staying afloat; living up to ideals as fathers, husbands and breadwinners leaves little time for social recreation. On the other, Cairene men play recreational football more often than ever before. Across the Egyptian capital, parking lots, industrial estates, ministry compounds and agricultural land are developed into artificial grass pitches, where groups of men and boys play the game for an hour or two. Based on long-term fieldwork with football players in three neighbourhoods, this paper relays stories about lower middle-class Cairenes, who spend significant parts of their limited spare time playing football with friends and work colleagues. My ethnography spotlights two themes with markedly deviating temporalities: first, football engenders a highly emotional and competitive male sociality centred around instant, embodied joy; second, the game requires skilled bodily capacities, acquired meticulously over long periods of time – to be fully in control of the space and the ball, one should ideally have played the game since early childhood. Reflecting on this conflation of slow investment and quick returns, I suggest that, in austerity-plagued Egypt, the male body is not only worn down by monotonous labour. For men who have invested in bodily stamina, fitness and football skills, the body also constitutes one of few available avenues for moments of gratification, pleasure and joy.

Conference topic

Panel no. 12 - Anthropology of Sports in its Coming of Age

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Abstract Review

This abstract was reviewed on 2020-12-31 15:53h by Luiz Rojo

Reviewer decision