His books include: The Circle of Reason, The Shadow Lines, and In An Antique Land, Dancing in Cambodia, The Calcutta Chromosome, The Glass Palace, Incendiary Circumstances, and The Hungry Tide. His most recent novel, Sea of Poppies, is the first volume of the Ibis Trilogy. Amitav Ghosh was born in Calcutta in 1956. He studied in Dehra Dun, New Delhi, Alexandria and Oxford and his first job was at the Indian Express newspaper in New Delhi. He earned a doctorate at Oxford before he wrote his first novel, which was published in 1986. In an Antique Land is described by some as a subversive history of Egypt in the guise of a travelers journal.
The book comments on Egyptian history from the Crusade to Desert Storm. It is a work of fiction based on some biographical and historically correct information. The bulk of the book relates anecdotes of his life as an Egyptian villager during which time, he learns about the customs and history of the Middle East. Ghosh evokes the values of a humble peasant to write his story. He attempts to place himself in the shoes of the villagers. He assumes an identity as a humble villager. Ghosh hears about the primitive practices of the people who follow no prophet.
He wonders about their place in the society. He was interrogated once by elders and when he told them India was more impoverished than Egypt, they refused to believe it. He realizes that the Egyptians think they are on the bottom rung of society. Egyptians and Indians share a history of colonial oppression. During the middle ages, the two countries conducted trade. Ghosh examines the similarities and differences between the two societies. Ghosh allows himself to be regarded as a simpleton in order to understand the Egyptian point of view and customs. He is pestered and ridiculed by the villagers.
Ghosh leaves and returns to the village seven years later to see the changes. The children who teased him have grown up. Many Egyptians were called to the Iraq-Iran war. Other young men were working in construction. With the money they earned, they were able to send money home for their relatives to buy novelties they had not had before like refrigerators and televisions. He finds that they no longer live in mud huts but they have built bungalows. Ghosh attempts to draw parallels between the ancient and the modern world. Lila Abu-Lughod The book, Dreams of Nationhood, The Politics of Television in Egypt, was written by
Lila Abu-Lughod is a Palestinian-American professor of Anthropology and Womens and Gender Studies at Columbia University in New York City. She is the daughter of prominent academics Janet and Ibrahim Abu-Lughod. Abu-Lughod earned her Ph. D. from Harvard University in 1984. She is known for her research on Bedouin from the Awlad Ali tribe in Egypt. Previously, Abu-Lughod taught at Williams College, Princeton University and New York University. In this work, Abu-Lughod focused on the sociological phenomenon of the television serial. This is what we in the United States call soap operas.
They are a microcosm of the society they portray. She studies the television shows as a reflection of the culture of the Egyptian people. Abu-Lughod comments on the relative autonomy of the producers of the shows to create whatever illusion they wish free of the dictates of government censorship. She focuses on the audience with first hand input from the viewers who are predominantly female domestic servants in Cairo. She praises some shows such al-Assal and Usama Anwar for their social comment. She feels that the shows offer answers to social problems of the day without appearing patronizing or unrealistic in their presentation.
She condemns other shows such as the Epic of Abu Zayd, which she regards as overly melodramatic and without social merit. She looks at both the producers and the consumers of the entertainment. She makes the point that these serials are amusing but they do not address the inequities in society for women. Issues such as marital rape and underage marriage are important concerns of the Egyptian society. She comments on the heightened emotionality in the programs and their appeal to a mostly uneducated audience. Conclusion Both writers, Abu-Lughod and Ghosh write about Egyptian society as ethnographers. They use different approaches.
Aside from the obvious difference in a female point of view, Abu-Lughod writes as a member of the society seeking to improve various sociological aspects. She is extremely interested in issues such as education, social advancement, and freedom for women. She writes about how the serials could be a force for change in Egyptian society rather than reinforcing the status quo. The status quo is male domination and it is stifling the advancement of women. They are neglecting to use half of their national resources by holding women back. Women in this part of the world are not treated well or offered educational opportunities.
Abu-Lughod would like to see that change. She makes that clear in her writings. Abu-Lughod labels herself as an intellectual so in some respects, she is placing herself above the subjects of her book who are illiterate females. She is seeking to change society for the better with her work. Ghosh brings a male point of view to his synopsis of Egyptian society. He does not focus as much on the issues involving women. His focus is more on society as a whole. He focuses on the Egyptians assessment of themselves. He focuses on strained relations between Egypt and India. He examines the areas of commonality that link the two countries together.
Ghosh writes his work more as a historiographer. His work has a fictional aspect to it and it a different type of commentary that Abu-Lughod employs. Ghosh admits he finds the Egyptians difficult to understand. Both writers analyze the society and its development during the twentieth century. Ghosh goes further back in time to try to understand the changes that have occurred in Egyptian culture over the decades. The most important difference between the two is that Ghosh sees himself as an outside observer of Egyptian culture while Abu-Lughod sees herself as part of the intellectual elite of Egyptian culture.