Ronnie Close
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Censorship gazes on female portraiture
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Chapter 5 deals with female representation as subjects operating under the heteronormative lens that polices Egyptian public space. This includes cultural censorship and the problematic role the Egyptian state continues to play as the patriarchal arbiter of behavioural and moral values. Three diverse image-based works are discussed to consider the regulation of female bodies in the public sphere which have triggered responses to tell us much about censorship and misogyny. The first involves the digital self-portrait of feminist Aliaa al-Mahdy who posted a nude self-portrait on her personal blog in 2011. The image went viral within hours resulting in millions of visits to her website. The second visual work examines doctored fashion photographs on the adlat website, a female online community who offer users tips aligned to conservative Muslim values. A third visual case history examines international books on photography stocked in Cairo bookstores. Such anthologies often include nude artworks as part of the canon of Western art history and this presents a dilemma for the regime. In these editions state censorship has been carried out that entails hand-painting each photographic image to deny the full erotic impact of the body for the public viewer. These three mediated visual case studies are indicative of the entangled expression of gender which appears to demand female representation to be in line with traditional conservative codes. Such expressive tensions, between public and private behaviours, are often part of the stresses many feel within contemporary Egypt which are regularly negotiated through photographic representation.

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Decolonizing images

A new history of photographic cultures in Egypt

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