Jonathan Guyer, RI ’18, an independent journalist and contributing editor of the policy journal Cairo Review of Global Affairs, has spent the past five years researching Arabic comics. To that end, he has interviewed many graphic artists and translated hundreds of their cartoons. He is now writing a book about what he’s calling the “new wave” of comic art that has swept the Middle East and North Africa in the past 10 years.
RADCLIFFE: Who are your heroes?
GUYER: I admire the tenacity of many journalists I have met across the Middle East, far too many to name. One example that comes to mind is the team at Egypt’s last remaining independent news outlet, Mada Masr, which authorities currently block access to within the country. They work against all odds, investigating ministries and institutions that seek to be opaque. In the face of existential threats — Egypt is the third-worst jailer of journalists in the world, after Turkey and China — Mada continues to publish daily.
RADCLIFFE: Best personality trait?
GUYER: I’d like to think it’s my enthusiasm or ruthlessness, but it’s probably my passion for the sartorial delights. Growing up, my dad used to take me on runs to his favorite haberdasheries and tailors on weekends rather than Sunday football games. Is being fashionable a personality trait?
RADCLIFFE: Who is your muse?
GUYER: Cairo. The city of 20 million has been my source of inspiration for a decade. Of course, there is a gendered dynamic to the notion of the muse, and I don’t totally feel comfortable with gendering such a diverse metropolis. Indeed, local artists have personified Egypt as a woman for a century or more. In the process, ideas of womanly honor and idealized feminism are activated, which demand further inquiry and serious criticism (Beth Baron, in her book “Egypt as a Woman: Nationalism, Gender, and Politics” [University of California Press, 2007], began this important conversation). Nevertheless, Cairo has been the engine of my ideas. I owe the city everything.