Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Middle Eastern Studies


Christa Salamandra

Subject Categories

Near Eastern Languages and Societies | Other Arts and Humanities | Other Languages, Societies, and Cultures | Other Music


Mahraganat, Egypt, Music, Censorship, Egyptian Musicians’ Syndicate, Subaltern


Building upon Asef Bayat’s notion of the “unintelligibility” of Egypt’s subaltern politics, this thesis investigates how mahraganat music is rendered “unintelligible/nonsense” by influential Egyptian cultural figures and is targeted for censorship. Mahraganat is a musical artform that arose from the lower-working classes neighborhoods in Egypt to become a dominant genre in the country. In 2020, the Egyptian Musicians Syndicate, headed by Hany Shakir, banned mahraganat artists from performing officially in Egypt. Before and after the ban, state media debated the genre's status; its detractors framed the music as nonsensical, “absurd”, “meaningless”, “vulgar”, and a “low-brow” dilution of Egyptian cultural production originating in Cairo’s ‘ashwa’iyyat (informal quarters). The attacks on the genre by members affiliated with the Syndicate directly unleashed various discourses aimed at making artists “uncomfortable” in their sonic presence and popularity. This thesis looks closely at the debates surrounding the genre and how the inclusion of humor in the music has complicated matters for both cultural regulators and artists themselves.