The role of the state in re/constructing the 1973 war discourse in Egypt
In Egypt, questioning the country’s victory in the 1973 War and its implications can lead to media blackout, public outrage, imprisonment and even exile. Public representations of this alleged victory continue to be thus regulated in spite of 40 years of socio-political change, and in the face of a mass corpus of external and even internal literature which tells a different story. This thesis explores and problematises this persistent war discourse, by tracing the shifting process through which it was constructed and reconstructed by the state throughout the periods of President Anwar Sadat and his successor Hosni Mubarak. It uses Critical Discourse Analysis to combine analysis of texts commemorating the war with a study of the socio-political milieu related to personal authoritarianism and the state’s intricate relations with the army, the press and Islamists. In doing so, it makes an original contribution to theoretical knowledge about the relationship between war and discourse with reference to the Arab world specifically: it unpacks a particular discursive form of legitimacy existing, equitably and significantly, alongside physical forms centred on the ‘use of force’ to rule and endure in power. The thesis, furthermore, is empirically innovative in its use of largely untapped sources of Egyptian war discourse such as newspaper archives, textbooks along with war memorials, stamps and even song scripts. The study finds that the interplay of language and politics left the war represented through three coherent and logically structured patterns over 40 years: (1) Egypt had a ‘massive and consistent’ victory; (2) war was always personalised and personified; and (3) war was always miraclised or/and ‘religionised’.Although these patterns were reordered over time (with both change and continuity evident between the era of Sadat and Mubarak), the official discourse retained an appearance of coherence since it was always so closely attuned to its broader political context. Rather than inferring from this legitimacy that the discourse was as historically ‘truthful’ as any other, however, the thesis provides hard evidence that it relied on intentional falsehoods.
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