“Wonders More in Number Than Any Other Land”: Ancient Egypt, Digital Community, and Expressive Ideology



Rogers, Timothy

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Ancient Egypt is (and has been) primarily communicated through ideas, ideas that have specific cultural and social uses for historically, politically, and geographically distinctive contexts. This thesis explores how a particular, contemporary brand of these Egyptocentric ideas—alternative theories—are expressed in digital communities on Facebook and Reddit, and how alternative theories contribute to and perpetuate a discourse of control over Egypt and its history and culture, i.e., alternative Egyptology. As such, I examine how control is continuously enacted through individual representations of ancient Egypt that alternative theories generate, often depicting Egypt in mysterious, anomalous forms. I argue that these representations can also be characterized by two main performative elements: ideological expressions and claims of knowledge, both of which frequently defy ‘mainstream’ ideas about Egypt. How alternative theories are discussed and evaluated in comment sections is just as important as the initial post in terms of social and cultural functionality. Alternative theories, their discussion, and alternative Egyptology in general colonize ancient Egyptian history in order to legitimate a certain discursive position, constituting a communicative process I label the colonization of the anomalous. Finally, I posit that alternative theories and alternative Egyptology can be considered modes of vernacular Orientalism, both in their exoticizing representations of ancient Egypt and in Egypt’s ideological/epistemological usage to these discursive vehicles and the discourse itself.



Ancient Egypt, Digital culture, Ideology, Orientalism, Folk knowledge, Representation