Last week at a conference at Dokk1 library in Aarhus, organizers announced that Amira Hanafi’s A Dictionary of the Revolution had won the inaugural Public Library Prize for Electronic Literature:
A Dictionary of the Revolution (https://qamosalthawra.com) is being exhibited, along with other shortlisted works, at Roskilde library. Later, it’s set to tour to other Danish libraries that are “working on ways to introduce digital literature in a library setting in collaboration with the Turn On Literature project.”
Earlier this year, A Dictionary of the Revolution took the top prize at the New Media Writing Prize ceremony at Bournemouth University, UK. That prize, now in its ninth year, is a collaboration between Bournemouth University and if:book UK.
Through one-on-one interviews, leaping off from particularly salient words, A Dictionary of the Revolution makes space for a wide variety of views on the contemporary lexicon. In a 2015 interview, Hanafi said of the project:
All of the interviews in the current collection were conducted in 2014; in that sense it is a snapshot of dialogue in that year. However, I wouldn’t say that the collection represents a fixed view. Change in Egypt has been rapid. Throughout the year, I noted both subtle and conspicuous shifts in dialogue. For instance, a number of people chose to talk about the word intakhabat (elections) in interviews leading up to the presidential elections in May. Some talked about what they expected to see: namely, a large voter turnout. When that didn’t happen, people’s idea of elections changed again, and that’s represented in the collection.
Personally, I found the discussion of “social justice” to be quite compelling, as the concept has a long history in contemporary Egypt. People of all walks of life shared informed opinions, something I’m not sure I would find in other countries. Another word that keeps changing for me is “revolution.” A number of times, I’ve called into question the title of the project, but it’s still the best I can manage. I don’t really know what to call it that wouldn’t be quite cumbersome: perhaps, “A Dictionary of Disputed Events in Egypt from 2011-2014.”
Hanafi wrote in an email that, “If all goes according to plan, I’ll be talking about the work on a panel with other artists/authors of electronic literature on the evening of 18 July at the British Library.”