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Sherine Hamdy faced a form of nationalism when she presented the results of her research on medicine, religion, and health in Egypt at a conference on Islamic bioethics. Because her analysis was critical of health inequalities, especially in the domain of organ transplantation, it was virulently dismissed by Egyptian scholars, their reaction in turn generating protests from North American participants who interpreted it as religious instead of political. As is almost always the case, the positions of both critics and critics of critics were largely determined by historical backgrounds, cultural prejudices, and power structures. This scene is the starting point of a meditation on the quandary of doing anthropology in the Middle East, with the singular tensions between hope and cynicism, cheerfulness and negativity that undermine political debates.

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