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The Egyptian Uprising Spanned the Generations

February 21, 2011

The Egyptian uprising, though planned by young activists, was a multigenerational project, says Jessica Winegar. Photo by Abdelrahman Mostafa.

The important role that youth activists played in the Egyptian uprising often lead media to represent it as a youth revolution. But part of the power of this uprising was prcisely that it pulled together people from across classes, religions, and generations joined by their common hope that they could produce real change.

My colleague Jessica Winegar, author of a wonderful ethnography of Egyptian modern artists called Creative Reckonings: The Politics of Art and Culture in contemporary Egypt, has been in Egypt all through the uprising and she writes today in the blog Jadaliyya:

While it is true that young activists planned the January 25th demonstrations and organized and raised support throughout much of the process leading up to that day, this uprising would not have succeeded in ousting the President and Cabinet, and would not be continuing, were it not for older generations of Egyptians.

Jessica, who teaches anthropology at Northwestern University, goes on to describe the ways multiple generations of Egyptians, some of whom were Leftist protesters in their own youths, responded to, and participated in, the current events.

On the night of Mubarak’s departure, I rushed to Tahrir as did thousands of Cairenes. … I sat across from one man in his late 70s who

Young and old at Tahrir Square. Photo by Abdelrahman Mostafa.

 sat with a smile on his face, staring at the teen and twenty-something men in amazement and admiration, with tears of joy in his eyes. He kept saying to me in English, “Revolution. Revolution.”   He was going to Tahrir too, and when I got there, amidst the massive celebrating crowds, I saw countless older men and women, some quite old and in wheelchairs or with canes. They walked with their spouses, and/or children and in many cases grandchildren. Some of the mothers and grandmothers ululated. Fathers and grandfathers participated in the moving cheer, “Lift your head up, you are Egyptian!” It seemed that they had once been able to lift their heads up in pride as Egyptians, and although now many were stooped from the effects of living under an oppressive dictatorship, they were clearly so thrilled that their offspring could now lift their heads proudly and that they were among the fortunate ones to live to see this day.

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