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Karate as a Vehicle to Modernity?
Islam, Art and Body Culture in Egypt

Dr. Hatsuki Aishima

This project investigates how Egyptian Muslims imagine their modern Self with reference to their multiple Others—the West and East Asia—by engaging in an ethnography of karate practitioner communities in urban Egypt. It will explore sports and performing arts (categories and practices that largely originate in the West) as the vehicles for local actors to participate in constructing and resisting the global order, and so to try out their own versions of modernity. Although sport has contributed to the formation of Egyptian national identity as much as anywhere else in the world, sport culture or physical education in modern Egypt is yet to be studied thoroughly. Since karate was introduced to Egypt in the 1970s, it has established firm roots in youth culture, together with kung fu and taekwondo. My research will focus on the process through which novices are initiated into the path of karate by acquiring its philosophical principles and technical skills. Apart from conducting in-depth interviews with Egyptian instructors, students, and their parents at karate schools, I intend to analyse the images of martial arts produced in popular culture.