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Talking About a Revolution: Oxford University Plans 2012 Conference

December 28, 2011

Talkin' 'bout a revolution, well you know... We all want to change the world

Oxford University’s Department of Politics and International Relations is calling for a conference May 18-19 2012 to be called “The Egyptian Revolution, One Year On: Causes, Characteristics and Fortunes.”

The convenor, Dr. Reem Abou-El-Fadl, issued a call for papers, with abstracts due Jan. 31st.

Scope and Aims:

The popular uprising of the 25 January 2011 launched a revolution in Egypt that captured observers’ imagination worldwide, and whose reverberations continue to be felt throughout the Middle East, as well as in the world’s major capitals. The year 2012 will see scholarly communities worldwide mark the first anniversary of this extraordinary development. This Conference aims for Oxford University to be the meeting point, at the juncture of one year on, for a consideration of the causes, characteristics, and fortunes of the January Revolution.

Amidst the wave of scholarly interest in the Arab uprisings as a whole, this conference will offer a welcome focus on one country case, allowing an in-depth consideration of relevant themes in Egyptian history and politics, society and economy, while also accounting for international linkages. The Conference will also stand out for its explicit aim to bring together scholars based inside and outside the Arab world, and encouraging the participation of scholars on the ground in Egypt. Finally, the Conference is timed to allow consideration of the events of the first anniversary of the uprising in January and February 2012.

The Conference also aims to form the basis for a scholarly network, which will engage in continued collaboration on themes and ideas emerging from the Conference. The 2012 Conference will gather scholars in the collective goal of writing a ‘first anniversary history’ of the Revolution, emphasising the value, as well as the limits, of conducting such an exercise at precisely such an early stage. It is hoped that further anniversaries will be marked by similar gatherings through the emerging network.

Themes and Proposed Panels

Submissions are invited from different disciplines on topics relating, but not restricted, to the following themes:

I. Anticipating the Revolution: Causes and Precursors

How can we conceptualise and understand the outbreak of the uprising? What have been the relative weight and influence of factors such as political mismanagement, the rise of new social movements, socioeconomic causes, state repression, and social change, among others? How can we locate the Egyptian experience in relation to prior Egyptian and Arab cycles of protest, as well as other revolutionary situations worldwide?

II. Agents and Praxis of Revolution

Who are Egypt’s revolutionaries? What has characterised and moved the actors and organisational structures associated with the events of January 2011? In what ways have some structures been reformed and remoulded, and some alliances made and reconfigured? What strategies of mobilisation have been adopted and how have such choices been made and informed by prior experience? How and why have these strategies changed over the months since January 2011?

III. ‘Talking About a Revolution’

Which concepts, symbols and demands came to be associated with a ‘revolutionary cannon’ and how? How have elements of this discourse been redefined and revived since January e.g. freedom, social justice, national unity and dignity? How were these related to precedents in Egyptian/Arab history? What has been the role of popular imagination and artistic expression, and the interaction with political developments?

IV. Competing Visions for the Transition; Unpacking the ‘counter-revolution’

Who have been the influential players since February 2011 and what have been their associated visions for the transition period and for post-Mubarak Egypt? What is meant by the term ‘counter-revolution’ and which sets of actors and interests can substantiate it? How have these groups related to each other, and what has governed the strategies and fortunes of each in the period since February? What was new about the election process and how did negotiations on the electoral law, as well as campaigning itself, reflect and impact the Revolution’s demands?

V. Revolution and Public Institutions

How did the ouster of Mubarak impact upon Egypt’s unions, syndicates, universities, media and other public institutions? How have the labour movement and other strands of the revolutionary movement related to one another and how have they articulated and enforced their demands in particular contexts?

VI. Egypt’s Revolution and Arab Regional and International Repercussions

What commentary did the Egyptian democracy movement make on foreign policy, and how have protesters in Egypt related to those in other Arab uprisings? How have existing relations with regional and international actors been affected? What of the links forged between Egyptian and international social movements?

Conference plan

Each panel will include 2-3 paper presenters and a chair/discussant from Oxford or another UK University. Presentations should last 15-20 minutes, chairs’ interventions up to ten minutes, followed by questions and discussion. Each panel session will thus last no longer than 1.5 hours.

Speakers will also be invited to contribute to a roundtable entitled ‘Revolution in the Field’ which will consider the way in which the Arab uprisings challenge contemporary scholarship on the region, how they are to be understood and situated within Arab history, and how they should be taught.

Travel and Accommodation Arrangements

We will be happy to take care of the accommodation and meals of all paper presenters for the two day duration of the Conference. There are also funds available to subsidise paper presenters’ travel costs.

Papers presented at the Conference will be considered for publication in an edited volume.

Convener: Reem Abou-El-Fadl, Jarvis Doctorow Junior Research Fellow, St Edmund Hall and Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford


Please submit an abstract of 500 words to, adding

  • Your institutional affiliation (university and department, research centre etc.)
  • Your position (doctoral student, post-doctoral fellow, lecturer etc.)
  • A brief biography or CV

Abstracts should refer to

  •  the argument, approach, and sources used
  •  which conference theme the paper is aimed at, and why


Authors of shortlisted abstracts will be informed by 20 February 2011.

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