Transforming Personal Death into Public Martyrdom

Sacralization in Downtown Cairo after the 2011 Uprising


  • Daniel Enstedt University of Gothenburg
  • Giulia Giubergia PhD, independent scholar



Arab Spring; Cairo, Sacralization; Social and cultural transformation



This article examines ways to analyze and understand the social and cultural transformation that occurred after the 2011 uprising in downtown Cairo. We argue for a cultural sociological perspective using a renewed version of the concept “the sacred” for analysis. Visual material – graffiti and murals on the walls of Cairo – is discussed in relation to the process of transforming the death of an individual into collective martyrdom. The role of social media, public rituals, and celebrations in the events in Tahrir Square is also discussed. This article shows how the process of sacralization follows a recurring pattern in which individual deaths transmigrate into new collective, ritualized memories through the use of aesthetics in social media and on murals. Using different types of field-based and online material, this article argues for a cultural sociological perspective whereby individual death also can be understood on a more general level as a constituent part of the existing and contested societal order. The emphasis on a processual view of social and cultural transformation is equally important. This view includes a dialectical perspective, which together with an awareness of spatiality, materiality, new media, and embodiment, is essential for an understanding of what happened in downtown Cairo after the uprising in 2011.




How to Cite

Enstedt, D. and Giubergia, G. . (2023) “Transforming Personal Death into Public Martyrdom : Sacralization in Downtown Cairo after the 2011 Uprising”, Culture Unbound, 15(2). doi: 10.3384/cu.4105.



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