Signposts Along the Road: Monumental Public Writing in Egypt

UNCC Author/Contributor (non-UNCC co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Gregory Starrett, Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC )
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Abstract: Studies of writing in developing societies generally focus on book, newspaper and commercial literacy, and do not address the cultural significance of writing on craft and manufactured objects, on the one hand, and the use of writing on public signs, murals and billboards, on the other. Although ‘scattered’ indeed, the two latter genres of writing are important. They are also quite similar in their social roles, for although commodities circulate between public and private space, and public signs form relatively permanent parts of the built environment, both are manufactured displays which use writing in exaggerated form, and act simultaneously as geographical and identity markers, art, and foci of ritual acts. Given the centrality of written texts to the theology and practice of Islam, and also the importance of calligraphy in the visual art of the Islamic world, it is surprising that not much attention has been paid to these alternative uses of the written word. Thus I would like here to examine a specific subset of written culture in urban Egypt: the use of monumental writing in public space.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 1995
Egypt, Islam, material culture, semiotics, public sphere

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