Is Farouk Hosni an Intellectual? Writers Respond

Just move this one a little more to the right.

Is Sonallah Ibrahim an intellectual? Salwa Bakr? Amina Rachid? Mohamed al-Bisatie? Alaa al-Aswani? How about employees of the ministry of culture?

These are just a few of the signatories to a new letter calling for Farouk Hosni’s resignation, according to Al Akhbar. This comes after the long-reigning culture minister (is it 23 years now?) claimed that signatories to a petition calling for his resignation were “not cultured” or “not intellectuals” because you couldn’t find them in a “museum or gallery or archaelogical area,” and only a few were members of the Egyptian Writers Union.

This letter calling for Hosni’s resignation, Al Akhbar reports, mentions the conditions of writers and artists, both physical and socio-cultural, and the absence of a clear Egyptian cultural strategy with clear policies. According to Al Akhbar, the letter also touches upon a number of cultural disasters Hosni has overseen: the plunder of Egypt’s monuments and the looting of the national archives, the fires in Beni Suef and at the National Theater, and of course the now-famous theft of the Van Gogh.

Apparently, in 2005—after the fire in the Beni Suef Cultural Palace during a performance, which killed 48 people—Hosni had tendered his resignation. But then, “Three days later, responding to the pleas of some 400 high-profile intellectuals, the president decreed that Hosni should resume his duties.” (This according to Al Ahram Weekly.)

More interesting, from the 2005 article, is Hosni’s “map of the intellectual landscape.” He says:

There are respectable intellectuals for, and respectable intellectuals against the ministry, then there are the pretend intellectuals — noise without substance.

I should hope Hosni wouldn’t presume to call the current list of signatories “noise without substance.”


  1. First, I’ve always had a problem how ‘intellectual’ is translated from Arabic to English. The very word it self assumes a certain degree of ‘modernism’ and very specific ideological stance. A problematic one in my view.

    Second, Edward Said was invited to lecture on the topic, The 1993 Reith Lectures, which was subsequently turned into the book Representations of the Intellectual. In this book, he discusses how intellectuals are viewed in various histories.

    Gramsci says that everyone is an intellectual, but not everyone serves as an intellectual in society. The people who do serve the role of the intellectual in society are further divided into two groups, traditional and organic.

    Said, building on Gramsci, says that “the intellectual is an individual with a specific public role in society that cannot be reduced simply to being a faceless professional…The central fact for me is, I think, that the intellectual is an individual endowed with a faculty for representing, embodying, articulating a message, a view, an attitude, philosophy or opinion to, as well as for, a public.”

    The first chapter is an interesting read.

    1. Regarding translation: I should never, ever attempt it, at least between these two languages. I am qualified to translate Eng-Russian, maybe. Anyhow.

      I look forward to picking up /Representations of the Intellectual/ when I can dig it up… Thanks, Ramsey.

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