Andrew SimonJun 16, 2022
Media of the Masses
Cassette Culture in Modern Egypt
Stanford University Press 2022
Media of the Masses: Cassette Culture in Modern Egypt (Stanford UP, 2022) investigates the social life of an everyday technology—the cassette tape—to offer a multisensory history of modern Egypt. Over the 1970s and 1980s, cassettes became a ubiquitous presence in Egyptian homes and stores. Audiocassette technology gave an opening to ordinary individuals, from singers to smugglers, to challenge state-controlled Egyptian media. Enabling an unprecedented number of people to participate in the creation of culture and circulation of content, cassette players and tapes soon informed broader cultural, political, and economic developments and defined "modern" Egyptian households.
Drawing on a wide array of audio, visual, and textual sources that exist outside the Egyptian National Archives, Andrew Simon provides a new entry point into understanding everyday life and culture. Cassettes and cassette players, he demonstrates, did not simply join other twentieth century mass media, like records and radio; they were the media of the masses. Comprised of little more than magnetic reels in plastic cases, cassettes empowered cultural consumers to become cultural producers long before the advent of the Internet. Positioned at the productive crossroads of social history, cultural anthropology, and media and sound studies, Media of the Masses ultimately shows how the most ordinary things may yield the most surprising insights.
You can listen to the full versions of the songs mentioned in this interview here:
Avery Weinman is a PhD student in History at the University of California, Los Angeles. She researches Jewish history in the modern Middle East and North Africa, with emphasis on Sephardi and Mizrahi radicals in British Mandatory Palestine. She can be reached at email@example.com.