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Grant number like: FT-229565-15

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Deborah Ann Starr
Cornell University (Ithaca, NY 14850-2820)

Summer Stipends
Research Programs

[Grant products]

$6,000 (approved)
$6,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
8/1/2015 – 9/30/2015

The Films of Togo Mizrahi and Egyptian National Identity in the 1930s and 1940s

Summer research and writing on Film History and Criticism and Jewish Studies.

I seek an NEH Summer Stipend to support research on a book examining the contribution of cinema to debates about national identity in 1930s and 40s Egypt. Members of Egypt's ethno-religious minority communities figured prominently on and off-screen during these formative years of the Egyptian film industry. "Agent of Exchange" focuses on the output of Studio Togo Mizrahi, the era's most prolific studio, founded by an Egyptian-born Jew of Italian nationality. Analyzing films produced by Studio Mizrahi, I interpret the narratives and images Egyptians received about being modern, national subjects. These films use masquerade and exchange to present identity as performative and mutable. I argue that, in contrast to emerging exclusionary discourses of national identity, these films project a Levantine cinematic idiom, characterized by an ethics of coexistence and a visual language of inclusion. This project also contributes insights into the growing role of mass media in this period.