Biographical Dictionary of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution

BY LAMA ABDEL BARR

PHOTO BY NAURA MOEMEN

What started out as merely a task for the final papers of the students enrolled in History 412 became a biographical dictionary of the 2011 Egyptian revolution that is now also a Wiki page.

The course, called ‘Isqat al-Nizam’ was dedicated to the comparative study of revolutions.

The dictionary aims to profile the prominent and influential figures from the revolution, be they members of the old regime, revolutionaries, journalists, activists or presidential candidates.

Professor Michael Reimer decided to take it a step further and transform the dictionary, which was compiled from the work of the students biographical entries, from both Professor David Blanks class and his own class, into a Wiki.  He did so with the assistance of his former student and current research assistant, Nareman Amin.

As of last summer Reimer and Amin received a grant from AUC to continue their work on this project.  Amin, who is a Spring 2011 AUC graduate with a B.A. in History and a triple minor in International Relations, Comparative Religion, and Writing, was originally one of the students from the HIST 412 class who worked on the dictionary. She later decided to join Reimer in pursuing the project further as a Wiki page.

Amin notes that one of most interesting processes in the entire compilation of the dictionary is the research process. She compares her work to that of a journalist’s, where besides having to keep up with the latest events, she finds herself having to quickly research, write and update entries.  “I look at dozens of sources for each biography, filter the information I want to use and make a whole of them.”

She adds “some of the most difficult things to do were to find sources, evaluate their reliability and to eliminate personality bias from my writing.”

The biographical profiles are mainly compiled based on both print and online sources, and couple of entries also use personal interviews with the subjects of the biography as an additional source.

The primary motivation behind continuing to work on the dictionary for Amin is that she finds it to be “personally satisfying to be knowledgeable about so many people.” Adding that it has made her more politically aware and keen to stay up to date on news and events.

Looking back, Amin comments on how she, along with the students in the class,  believed they had a clear vision of what was happening in the country whereas in reality it was “only a beginning of a realization and not the actual realization.”

Amin recommends the HIST 412 course on that basis; she believes the course subject matter can be tackled using an angle that is different to the one the Spring 2011 students had where they were in the midst of the new and fresh events.

The  course will be offered next Fall 2012 and will be taught by Dr. Michael Reimer, Dr. Hanan Kholoussy and Dr Marie-Pascale Ghazaleh.

Amin is currently working on the 62nd entry to the dictionary, and the possibility of additional contributors to the dictionary is being considered at present – those interested should contact Reimer.