Aya Sabry: ‘On the W/hole: Foldings and Flux’

Abstract: It took Alice falling into a hole to reach Wonderland. Initially, the tunnel extending from the hole seemed dark and empty, but as Alice looked around her, she found an assortment of things, from cupboards and book-shelves to maps and jars. Alice’s journey in Wonderland could be interpreted as a narrative of movement (through passages) enabled by holes: the rabbit hole, doors, windows, and the objects go on. This creative writing piece will anthropologically trace the role of holes in human sociality and epistemology. Holes will be highlighted as conditions of possibility, or openings in the fabric of our everyday lives that lead to potentialities, thus requiring our rethinking of notions of emptiness and nothingness. In the discursive regime of materiality, where presence and existence is signalled through matter that is objectively out there, gaps and blanks that challenge this—either methodologically, when one numerically measures a hole or an absence, or ontologically and epistemologically, when such nothingness becomes the very matter of becoming and being—should be highlighted and even listened to. After all, such gaps exercise agency on human actions and lifeworlds. Taking the two examples of Egyptian Muslim graves and biomedical fistulae, I will follow the ontological and epistemological possibilities that holes afford in our everyday lives.

BioAya Sabry is an anthropologist working on different enactments of death and knowledge among Egyptian Muslims living in Egypt, particularly since the nineteenth century, when systematic modernization efforts were undertaken by the state. She is interested in tracing the chaotic heterogeneities that imbricate our everyday lives and spaces and escape neat theorization, ranging from the (im)material to the multisensorial.