Solidarity, Translation and the Politics of the Margin
Philip Rizk, interviewed by Mona Baker
I chose to interview Philip Rizk for this collection because I consider him one of the most critical and articulate voices to emerge out of the vigour and ensuing trauma of the past few years in Egypt. He is as un-institutionalized as almost anyone can be in a modern society, and perhaps it is his positioning outside most mainstream institutions, including academia, that gives him a unique vantage point, one that allows him to do more justice to the complexity and passion of the revolutionary landscape in Egypt than most. Importantly, he is able to do so in English, the language in which the global public is continually subjected to an avalanche of ‘expert’ analyses and streamlined narratives, and in which ‘native’ commentators who support such narratives are prioritized and the many powerful and critical voices available in Arabic filtered out.
This interview was conducted by email, over a period of several, turbulent months, starting at the end of September 2014 and concluding at the beginning of April 2015, less than a month before submitting the manuscript to the publisher. Like the events and issues it engages with, it started – and continued – from a position of uncertainty and instability. As in Khalid Abdalla’s contribution to this volume, the uncertainty is not glossed over, not a source of despair; its acknowledgement is what allows voices like Philip’s to remain critical and open to other views and possibilities. As every day brought in new developments, competing narratives, unexpected perspectives on ‘old’ stories in Egypt, Philip revised and tweaked his answers, and may want to revise them again in the future. For now, this is a record of one activist’s reflections, at a specific point in time, on a broad range of issues, including the relationship and tension between the local and the global, the centre and the margin, the politics of language and articulation, and what forms of ‘deep translation’ and solidarity we need to continue the battle against our oppressors.
Philip Rizk is a film maker and writer based in Cairo, Egypt. He studied philosophy and anthropology and has been working with video since 2009. His first film is the short documentary This Palestinian Life (2009). In 2010, Rizk completed the short film series Sturm, a two channel articulation that explores rural and industrial ruin in Egypt. Together with Jasmina Metwaly, he formed the video collective Intifadat Intifadat in 2011, producing the series of videos Remarking January 25. Since 2011 Rizk has been a member of the Mosireen video collective. Metwaly and Rizk’s film Land Without is in long-term post-production. In 2015, Rizk and Metwaly released their first feature film, Out on the Street, in which they engage with performativity and theatre in a work with non-professional actors exploring the social and political landscape in Egypt leading up to the 25th January revolt. On the Street premiered at the Berlinale, and a work around the film will be presented at the Venice Biennale 2015. Rizk’s texts have appeared in various collected volumes, the Journal of Human Geography and on jadaliyya.com and roarmag.org.
Free access (courtesy of Rutledge): Download Chapter 17 Interview with Philip Rizk
Videos cited in this chapter:
Figure 1: Testimony of Aboudi, Video by Mosireen, 16 December 2011
Figure 2: Non-stop Security Attacks in Simone De Bolivar Square, video by Mosireen, 28 November 2012
Figure 3: Why Riot?, video by Mosireen, 18 March 2013
Figure 4: The Remnants of Colonialism: Eye Witness of the Square Massacre, 8 April, video by Intifadat Intifadat, 9 April 2011