Nov. 28 Centre for Ethnography Talk with Amira Mittermaeir
The Centre for Ethnography (Department of Anthropology, UTSC) will be
holding its final talk for this semester, on Wednesday, 28 November,
1-3pm, at MW 296.
Prof Amira Mittermaeir (University of Toronto)
"Islamic Charity in Egypt: On Ethics and Its Limits"
Prof. Mittermaier is the author of the award-winning book "Dreams that
Matter: Egyptian Landscapes of the Imagination" (2011, University of
We look forward to seeing you there!
Abstract: Drawing on fieldwork at one of Cairo's largest charity
organizations, this paper offers a critical engagement with the anthropology
of ethics and morality. Over the past ten years, and even more so since the
uprising in January 2011, thousands of young Egyptians have become involved
in charitable activities. In this paper I reflect on the volunteers' own
understandings of their charitable work. Whereas some describe charitable
giving as inherently ethical (as responding to need and suffering), others
insist that their actions are not for "the poor" but for God. Their goal is
not being ethical but following God's commands. By cultivating a radical
orientedness toward God, they explicitly reject the language of
'amalal-khayr, the "doing of good deeds," and offer a critique of "empathy"
and "compassion." I suggest that this "anti-ethical" stand invites not only
an expansion but also a critical rethinking of the ethical turn in
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