08/12/2021 – UNU-MERIT/MGSoG Seminar on Migration, Culture, and Identity: The Case of Egypt

Migration and its relationship to culture and identity are among the difficult and intertwined topics on which many are reluctant to write on them for several reasons, the most important of which is that being objective in such research is beset by many difficulties and obstacles, the first of which is the difficulty separating the researcher himself from the context. As an Egyptian researcher who grew up in Egypt and its culture, I may find it very difficult to approach this topic with complete objectivity. I am deeply rooted in this land and my association with it is perhaps one of the crucial things that shaped my culture, my awareness of the world and my interpretation of the social phenomena that occur in my country and worldwide. The second and most important point, if I was able to get past the first point, is the issue of my positionality within this research, and the difficulty of the individual researcher to complete an integrated work on this topic, no matter what his capabilities are and no matter how much time is devoted to such work, as the issues of migration, culture and identity are in themselves topics that intersect and intertwine with other social sciences. Between migration to Egypt before the 1950s and forced migration to Egypt since the beginnings of the 21st century, the major exodus of Egyptians towards the oil kingdoms in the Gulf. This economic migration to the Arabian Peninsula turned the conditions of the Egyptian society upside down, with the economic boom and social disparity caused by remittances to Egypt by Egyptian workers abroad. More important than remitted Dinars and Dirhams were the non-monetary remittances (social and cultural remittances) and their alignment with the Egypt’s political orientation at that time and the state’s alliance with Saudi Arabia’s fundamental Islam against the USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan and the start and rise of Islamic Jihadism during the period of the late President Sadat (1970-1981), a period that made of the empowerment of Wahabi thoughts and fundamental Islam in Egypt and the rise of supranational affiliations against the national culture and values. An attempt is made in this book to trace the story of Egyptian migration and its impact on Egyptian society and the Egyptian identity before and after the era of massive migration to the Gulf kingdoms; I follow the story from the beginning, from Napoleon’s Campaign in Egypt until the present time.

About the speaker

Ayman Zohry (Ph.D. University of Sussex) is an Expert on Population and Migration Studies based in Cairo, Egypt. He is the founding president and president of The Egyptian Society for Migration Studies (EGYMIG). Dr. Zohry is also an Adjunct Professor at the American University in Cairo (AUC). Following his early interests in Arab and Egyptian demography (1987-1998), Dr. Zohry’s research interests have shifted increasingly to the study of migration. Dr. Zohry is the chair of the Scientific Panel on Migration, Union for African Population Studies (UAPS) and former chair of the Scientific Panel on International Migration, the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP) 2011-2014. His current research interests include internal migration and urbanization, labor migration, irregular migration, migration governance, and migration policies in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and Europe. Dr. Zohry served as a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Immigrant and Refugee Studies, 2005 – 2013. Currently, he serves as a member of the editorial board of the International Migration Review (IMR).