Philosophy prof appointed new head of Egypt's high culture council

Mohammed Saad , Tuesday 14 Feb 2012

Saied Tawfik named secretary-general of Egypt's Supreme Council for Culture following resignation last week of Camellia Sobhy

Saied Tawfik

Egyptian Minister of Culture Shaker Abdelhamid has appointed philosophy professor Saied Tawfik as the new secretary-general of Egypt's Supreme Council for Culture (SCC) after former secretary-general Camellia Sobhy resigned last week for personal reasons.

Tawfik, the fourth SCC secretary-general since last year's revolution, is a philosophy professor at Cairo University. He is best known for his work on phenomenology and contemporary aesthetics, subjects on which he has written numerous books.

Born in Cairo in 1954, Tawfik earned a philosophy degree from Cairo University in 1976. He later wrote his master's degree thesis on "the metaphysics of art in Schopenhauer’s works." In 1987, he completed his doctorate, earning an honorary PhD for his study on phenomenological aesthetics, which was eventually published.

He translated the book "The Relevance of the Beautiful" by German philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer and "The World as Will and Representation" by philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer.

A new strategy

Tawfik told Ahram Online that his priority would be to develop the SCC from within. “I will reconsider the council’s strategy and revise its internal laws," he said. "A revision of the council’s membership terms is also a must so as to ensure the representation of all factions of intellectuals."

One of the pillars of his new strategy will be state prizes awarded by the council, which are considered the highest cultural prizes granted by the state.

“Criteria for choosing prize recipients should be changed," he said. "New criteria should be set to ensure that these prizes aren't handed out as favours as had previously been the case."

Turmoil in-house

Tawfik's appointment comes amid turmoil in the SCC following Sobhy's resignation. What's more, the "Coalition of SCC Youth" has announced plans to stage an open-ended sit-in on 14 February if the current culture minister fails to dismiss Tariq Noman, director of the council's cultural committees. The coalition has accused Noman of running the committees "dictatorially."

Nor did Sobhy's resignation transpire quietly. Abdelhamid told Ahram Online that she had asked to be discharged from her post due to personal reasons that she preferred not to disclose.

Ahram Online has learned from SCC sources that her resignation had been preceded by a quarrel between the secretary-general and a council employee. According to sources, the minister personally visited the SCC in an attempt to contain the situation, but these efforts failed and she resigned anyway. Despite several attempts, Ahram Online failed to get a comment on the issue from Sobhy.

Sobhy is a professor of French literature at Ain Shams University. She was appointed SCC secretary-general last December following Abdelhamid's appointment to the culture ministry, becoming the first woman to hold the position since the SCC's establishment in 1980.

During her brief tenure, she reorganised the council's cultural committees following their dissolution last July. Reforming the committees had been a major component of the SCC's strategy.

The committees are responsible for planning and monitoring the government's cultural policies; scheduling council activities; and organising the council's annual cultural awards.

The SCC is an independent organisation run by the culture ministry. It replaced Egypt's Supreme Council for Arts and Culture, which was founded in 1954. 

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