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“We are all Khaled Said”: Visual Injustice Symbols in the Egyptian Revolution, 2010–2011

Advances in the Visual Analysis of Social Movements

ISBN: 978-1-78190-635-4, eISBN: 978-1-78190-636-1

Publication date: 1 March 2013


This chapter offers a symbolic perspective on the Egyptian Revolution. It does so by analyzing the transformation of Khaled Said, a 28-year-old Egyptian man beaten to death by police on June 6, 2010, into a key visual injustice symbol. Activists were motivated by a horrifying cell phone photograph of Said taken by his family at the morgue and uploaded on the web. Although the postmortem photograph had a powerful emotional impact in itself, the transformation of Said from local/particular incident to injustice symbol with society-wide repercussions cannot be explained by its mere availability in the public sphere. The transformation required intervention and appropriation by activists who creatively and strategically universalized the case, linking it with existing injustice frames in Egypt. This chapter analyzes this interplay between photographs, activism, and society in two steps. The first provides an analysis of the genesis of the Said symbol and identifies three levels of agency in its formation. The second step analyzes the process through which Said was infused with injustice meanings by activists. Providing the first systematic analysis of Said from a social movement perspective, the chapter draws on several data sources that are subjected to interpretive analysis: visual material available on the internet, Facebook pages, and interviews with and accounts by key activists. And it calls for more attention to photographs and symbols in the analysis of activism and points to several historical and present cases with relevance for such an approach.



Olesen, T. (2013), "“We are all Khaled Said”: Visual Injustice Symbols in the Egyptian Revolution, 2010–2011", Doerr, N., Mattoni, A. and Teune, S. (Ed.) Advances in the Visual Analysis of Social Movements (Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change, Vol. 35), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 3-25.



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