Enquêteurs (non) familiers. Qui mène les enquêtes dans les séries télévisées égyptiennes ?

Gianluca Parolin


The paper considers crime drama as a prime site for the appreciation of how law and its enforcement agencies are represented on Egyptian television, in particular in the immensely popular serials aired during the ‘Ramadan marathon.’ The apparent absence of familiar detectives raises questions on features of the genre that can cast light on the representation of the functioning of the legal system. Very few television serials are branded by producers and distributors or recognised by critics as ‘crime drama.’ Genre labels fluctuate, trying to grasp its elusive essence. The paper thus maps the field casting a wider net: television drama where crimes are investigated, privileging those works in which the investigation of the crime(s) features as the main plot line. A significant larger pool of serials thus emerges—which is, in its own right, already telling. The paper then looks into the modalities of the investigation within this larger pool, by paying special attention to the status of the ‘detective.’ In particular, it considers the mise-en-scène of the investigation process, the engagement with witnesses and suspects, and the collection of evidence. When charting the investigation, ‘police procedurals’ proper clearly stand out as a distinct sub-genre. In the large majority of cases, it is (un)familiar detectives that engage in crime investigations. Not only do these (un)familiar detectives have lesser tools than ordinary law enforcement, but they also have to contend with law enforcement in their quest for justice. The peculiarities of this spectacularly popular and widespread trope in Egyptian television drama are then worked into a wider theoretical framework that allows us to get a better sense of these representations of the functioning of law and its enforcement agencies in one of the forms of popular culture contributing the most to the crafting of popular (legal) culture.