Conférence « The Postcolonial Politics of Remembrance and Oblivion… » de Soha Bayoumi – 17 mars 2022

Le Centre de recherche Cultures – Arts – Sociétés a le plaisir de convier le public à la conférence inaugurale de son colloque 2022, qui sera présentée en anglais par Soha Bayoumi (Université Johns Hopkins), titulaire de la Chaire mobile du CELAT. Intitulée « The Postcolonial Politics of Remembrance and Oblivion: Arthur Cecil Alport and the Afterlives of Colonial Medicine », la conférence comodale se déroulera le jeudi 17 mars à 9 h à l’Université Laval (pavillon Louis-Jacques-Casault, salle 1640) et sur Zoom.

Lien pour l’inscription à la conférence virtuelle :

« In his 1946 book, One Hour of Justice: The Black Book of the Egyptian Hospitals and a Fellaheen Charter, Arthur Cecil Alport decries the corruption with which he sees Egyptian hospitals to be riddled. Alport arrives in Cairo from England in 1937 to assume his duties as chair of medicine in the Faculty of Medicine at King Fouad I University (now Cairo University) and works there for six years under the deanship for the first three years of Ali Pasha Ibrahim, a pioneer of Egyptian medicine and the first Egyptian dean of the Medical School. Needless to say, the years during which Alport practiced medicine in Egypt witnessed significant political turmoil in the leadup to and during WWII—turmoil that was accompanied by important changes in the semi-colonial medical infrastructure and priorities. Against this backdrop, Alport saw his book as an intervention on behalf of the “sick-poor” of Egypt. Despite being reportedly discouraged by many elite Europeans living in Egypt who deemed as futile his “crusade” to reform the healthcare system, Alport butted heads with Egyptian medical elites, including Ali Pasha Ibrahim, and was determined that the way to “make a dent” was to alert “public opinion in the British Empire and America” to the suffering of the poor in Egypt. Between his idealization of the fellaheen (peasants) as the authentic Egyptians, his positionality as a colonial physician extolling the virtues of British biomedicine and Britain’s responsibility for the sick-poor of Egypt in the face of the “incompetent and corrupt” Egyptian elites, and his alternating quotes from Lord Cromer and Hadiths from the Prophet Muḥammad, Alport offers in his book a fascinating window into the complicated world of colonial (medical) reformers.

In addition to examining the (semi-)colonial context of Alport’s tome, as well as its colonial messages and tones, this talk explores how this book came to be unearthed over sixty years later, in the years leading up to the Egyptian Uprising of 2011, as part of what came to be known as the Arab Spring. Translated into Arabic in 2009, Alport’s book was read and celebrated by groups of Egyptian doctors, including many engaged in the movement to reform the healthcare system. The book’s reception among beleaguered Egyptian doctors looking for reform poses important questions complicating the postcolonial reading of colonial endeavors in health justice and providing an example of the paradoxes of the postcolonial redemption of the colonial. The talk attempts to critically examine the power dynamics of colonial and postcolonial health reform, the notion of persistence of grievances, and how some colonial endeavors reverberate in postcolonial spaces. Through this analysis, the talk tries to shed light on the politics of remembrance in postcolonial contexts and how the (colonial) past is resuscitated and sanitized in the service of different political functions. »

Notice biobibliographique/Bio
Soha Bayoumi is a Senior Lecturer in the Medicine, Science, and the Humanities program at Johns Hopkins University. Trained in political theory, political philosophy and intellectual history, she works on the question of justice at the intersection of history, political theory, and science, technology and medicine studies. Growing up in Cairo, surrounded by both medicine and political activism, she later became interested in understanding how medical professionals’ political leanings shape their medical practice and how their medical expertise and practice shape, in turn, their political and social choices. She also became particularly interested in gender studies and postcolonial studies. After receiving a BS from Cairo University, she went on to do her graduate studies in France (Sciences Po Paris) and conducted research in Italy and Germany. Before teaching at Hopkins, she taught at Harvard’s Department of the History of Science between 2011 and 2021.

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