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Is As-Sisi Seeking Legitimization Through Repression?

November 13, 2018

Egypt can fit us all with all our differences. Accepting others and creating common ground will be important for us in order to create political development…“Sisi sworn in for second Egyptian presidential term amid crackdown on critics,” read the headline of the Reuter story on President As-Sisi assuming his second term in office. The Guardian headline was similar: “Egypt’s Sisi is sworn in for a second term, amid crackdown on dissent”

As-Sisi rode to power in 2013 on a wave of enthusiasm. Here, it was hoped, was someone who could bring back stability, improve the economy and be a secular president for all Egyptians. As I wrote elsewhere, reflecting on post-uprising Egypt through the lens of liminality theory:

Egypt’s quest is to find a “ritual specialist” to end this period of liminality by initiating the “decline and fall into structure and law”—the new order that will replace the old. Al-Sisi’s capacity to fulfill this role depends on his ability to present an authoritative narrative of order for the new Egypt…

In the event, as-Sisi’s regime has attempted to crush all forms of dissent, targeting Islamists, critics, activists, human rights organisations and journalists.

Among those arrested during the swearing-in period:

  • Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh (Feb. 14), physician and former presidential candidate, accused of leading a terrorist organisation .and spreading false news inside and outside the country
  • Moataz Wadnan (Feb 23), journalist, accused of publishing false news that incites against the state (apparently for interviewing Hisham Geneina), and of joining an illegal group that aims to disrupt state institutions.
  • Adel Sabry (Apr. 3), editor in chief of Masr-al-Arabia, a news web site, for spreading false news by republishing a New York Times article about alleged irregularities during the 2018 presidential election
  • Hisham Geneina (April 24), former head of the Central Auditing Authority, accused of spreading news that harms the armed forces.
  • Shady Abou Zeid (May 6), comedian and vlogger, accused of joining an outlawed group and spreading false news.
  • Amal Fathy (May 11), activist and actress. Accused of membership in a terrorist organization, calling for terrorist acts over the internet, and spreading false news that “damages the public order and harms national security” (apparently for complaining on social media about being sexually harassed by two policemen).
  • Shady Ghazaly Harb (May 15), political activist, accused accused of insulting the president and spreading false news with the intent of destabilizing social peace and national security
  • Haitham Mohamedeen (May 17), activist and human rights lawyer, accused of joining a terrorist organisation and calling for the overthrow of the regime by publishing false news.
  • Ismail Al-Iskandrani (May 22), journalist and social researcher, sentenced to ten years in prison for allegedly belonging to an illegal organization and spreading false news regarding national security in Sinai.
  • Wael Abbas (May 23), blogger and journalist. Accused of joining a banned group.
  • Mona el-Mazboh (May 31), Lebanese tourist, accused of deliberately spreading false rumors that are harmful to society and infringing upon religion for posting a video about being harassed and cheated in Egypt.

Yet even as the regime engaged in this effort to silence protests,  as-Sisi proffered in his swearing-in speech a narrative on inclusiveness:

Egypt can fit us all with all our differences. Accepting others and creating common ground will be important for us in order to create political development…

I assure you that accepting the other and creating common spaces between us will be my biggest concern to achieve consensus, social peace and real political development in addition to our economic development…

I will not exclude anyone from this common space except those who chose violence, terrorism and extremist thought as a way to impose their will…

I think there is more going on here than mere hypocracy. This juxtaposition of rhetorical commitment to inclusivity and the common good while engaging in increased arrests and incarcerations (and, let’s face it, torture), made me think about an argument on repression and legitimization in a (relatively) recent article by Mirjam Edel and Maria Josua in the journal Democracy.

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Framing The Revolution In Chinese

November 8, 2018

Greater China_s reporting on the role of social media in the Arab UprisingsIt will come as no surprise to most of us that how the Egyptian Revolution, and the Arab Spring more generally, was covered in global media would depend on the attitudes of authorities in those countries toward uprisings in general, democratic uprisings more specifically, and the use of social media as a tool of mobilization in particular.

Still, the details of how particular media frame events is usually interesting, and that proves to be the case in an article entitled “Tinted revolutions in prismatic news: Ideological influences in Greater China’s reporting on the role of social media in the Arab Uprisings” by Ying Roselyn Du of Hong Kong Baptist University, published in Journalism.

Du uses a sample of 162 news stories for the analysis, including 55 from mainland China, 65 from Hong Kong, and 42 from Taiwan. These stories came from 60 newspapers, including 32 from mainland China, 15 from Hong Kong, and 13 from Taiwan.

Essentially, Dr. Du found that newspapers in Taiwan and Hong Kong were far more likely to discuss the role of social media in the Egyptian protests than mainland Chinese newspapers, and that Taiwanese newspapers were more likely to write about the ways people found to get around Egypt’s Internet blockade than either Chinese or Hong Kong news media.

Du concludes that:

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Anthropology of Coptic Christianity Since 2012

July 9, 2018

anthropology(1)I was having dinner in Seoul recently with an old friend who taught in Egypt back around 2000. Living in East Asia for the past decade, he hasn’t really kept up on Egypt, and after a conversation about the revolution and its aftermath, he asked about Copts. There was always, he said, a tension between Muslims and Copts in his classes, and he said he’d never really understood it. We discussed it, and I sent him this post.

But it got me thinking about the fact that I had done a review of anthropological literature on Copts back in 2012, but never updated it.

So here’s an update:

2016

Mahmood, Saba. 2016. Religious difference in a secular age: a minority report. Princeton, New Jersey : Princeton University Press.

Publisher’s Description: The plight of religious minorities in the Middle East is often attributed to the failure of secularism to take root in the region. Religious Difference in a Secular Age challenges this assessment by examining four cornerstones of secularism—political and civil equality, minority rights, religious freedom, and the legal separation of private and public domains.

Drawing on her extensive fieldwork in Egypt with Coptic Orthodox Christians and Bahais—religious minorities in a predominantly Muslim country—Saba Mahmood shows how modern secular governance has exacerbated religious tensions and inequalities rather than reduced them. Tracing the historical career of secular legal concepts in the colonial and postcolonial Middle East, she explores how contradictions at the very heart of political secularism have aggravated and amplified existing forms of Islamic hierarchy, bringing minority relations in Egypt to a new historical impasse. Through a close examination of Egyptian court cases and constitutional debates about minority rights, conflicts around family law, and controversies over freedom of expression, Mahmood invites us to reflect on the entwined histories of secularism in the Middle East and Europe.

A provocative work of scholarship, Religious Difference in a Secular Age challenges us to rethink the promise and limits of the secular ideal of religious equality.

2015

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Bibliography of the Egyptian Revolution Reaches 1000 Entries

June 4, 2018
Retro Class Reunion Facebook Event Cover PhotoYesterday I was asked to review a paper on the Egyptian uprisings for an academic journal. After I read the manuscript, I went through the references, as I always do, to see if the text referenced any articles I didn’t have in my continually updated on-line bibliography. There was one, so I dutifully copied it into my database.
And then I discovered something.
I now have over 1000 social science texts about the Egyptian uprisings and their aftermath on this web page.

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New Book Chapter On Mediated Experience Of The Uprisings

May 19, 2018

517YadAfv6L._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_This just in: I have a new book chapter out on the Egyptian uprisings.

The title is “Mediated Experience in the Egyptian Revolution” and it appears in Digital Middle East: State and Society in the Information Age, edited by Mohamed Zayani and published by Oxford University Press.

What I try to do in the chapter is reconcile large scale political and social change — the Egyptian uprisings of 2011 — with everyday lived experience by looking at the extent to which experiences of the revolution were mediated.

My starting point is that most people in Egypt were not protesting at Tahrir or in Alexandria or anywhere else. Their experience of the revolution involved traffic delays and excited conversations around the dinner table, text messages and television programs, radio broadcasts and e-mails.

This chapter offers my first effort at a conceptual framework that recognizes the intricacy of interaction between mediation and revolutionary social change by looking at the lived experience of Egyptians during the Egyptian uprisings and their aftermath.

My point is not just that the experience of collective events is mediated through information and communication technologies, though. I am also arguing that these mediated experiences are both collective, in that people are connected by media uses and practices and by common activities and spaces, and yet they are also deeply personal and individualized, in that specific sets of technologies, interpersonal relationships and embodied practices that comprise one person’s unfolding experience will be different from that of someone else.

By way of illustrating this, I offer three three very different case studies about media use and the ways it framed experiences of the revolution. Tamer , an unmarried middle-aged man caring for his mother and sisters, Gehan, a young female English professor who supported the regime, and Bishoy, a tourist guide in Luxur.

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Diaspora, Gender & Mediated Revolution

May 7, 2018

www.burgundy.comIn several relatively recent papers (2017, 2015a, 2015b) I’ve made the point that for tens of millions of Egyptians, the uprisings of 2011 weren’t something they physically experienced directly and participated in by joining into protests; they were a mediated revolution, something they encountered through the media of television, newspapers, social media, and stories told by friends and relatives, interpersonally and by phone.

Similarly Jessica Winegar (2012) has described women participating in the revolution in mediated fashion from their homes.

What happens when such gendered and mediated experiences takes place at a greater distance?

That’s the subject of a fascinating article in the journal Identities by Yomna Elsayed and Andrea Wenzel entitled The Egyptian Sisters Club: negotiating community and identity in a time of conflict, published in the journal Identities.

The takeaway, in a nutshell: If you are women, wearing the hijab, in an increasingly Islamophobic environment like the US, the need to build strong support networks and safe spaces for your children may lead you to de-emphasize the importance of Egyptianness in forming your community, when Egypt is in turmoil, and that turmoil leads to rifts within the diasporic group.

Based on a nine-month qualitative study of Egyptian women’s “subjective experiences juggling homeland politics and the realities of life in Southern California at a time when Islamophobic sentiments were at least perceived to be circulating,” it asks questions about how diasporic Egyptian audiences, in this case, mostly wives and mothers, manage the challenges of political uncertainty back in the homeland from which a central part of their identity derives, and with which they have webs of ties.

At the core, this is a very interesting discussion, rooted in participant observation, of how diasporic groups create and maintain group identity through commensalism, social media, interpersonal rituals, exchanges of favors, and talk. Group cohesion is affected by the fact that all the members of the group were women, and almost all hijabis and young mothers, which made them likely to share social support needs. Yet the authors recognize that the the “groupness” of diasporic communities cannot be taken for granted but must be performed by members through everyday practices.

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Guerilla Graffiti: Sabotaging Homeland

March 24, 2018

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