Introduction: crisis and the ordinary
Paper short abstract:
This introductory presentation reflects on the themes of the panel on the comparative level, while also relating to fieldwork in Egypt during the revolutionary period since 2011.
Paper long abstract:
One of the striking features of a conflict situation is that often only a few blocks away from dramatic events, life appears to continue its normal course. In dramatic historical events, media coverage tends to focus on key places and actors of events, while anthropology can better account for the more discreet procedures of trying to maintain an imperfect continuity with ordinary reality, sometimes overshadowing for individuals what is unfolding on the main stage of History. The concept of "total event" (F. Pieke) has been developed to describe the Chinese situation during the Tien An Men demonstration of 1989. A total event encompasses the whole of a society, leading to a complete reinterpretation of its tenets, and a perceived widening of possibilities. This panel suggests a contrary perspective on the impact of major crises, like revolutions, catastrophes, and war, by focusing on the ways they are kept at distance by people affected by them in an effort to preserve the stability of daily life or to safeguard a sphere of intimacy to seek refuge in. Sometimes, it is in fact difficult to take an active part in a dramatic event even if one wanted to. The introduction to the panel relates to comparative work as well as recent fieldwork in Egypt during the revolutionary period in order to to develop ethnographically grounded interpretations of what it means to maintain the ordinariness of life in moments of crisis.
On the margins of history: keeping a step aside of crisis