New Book On Revolutionary Egypt (With A Chapter By Yours Truly)
In 2012 I traveled to Oxford University to participate in an interdisciplinary conference on the Egyptian revolution. “The Egyptian Revolution, One Year On: Causes, Characteristics and Fortunes” was a fascinating experience, as I joined scholars from many different disciplines struggling, as I was, for a theoretical language that would effectively describe and explain the revolution.
The conference turned into a book project, and the book “Revolutionary Egypt: Connecting Domestic and International Struggles,” edited by Reem Abou El-Fadl was released today by Routledge.
My own chapter, “Re-Envisioning Tahrir: The Changing Meanings of Tahrir Square in Egypt’s Ongoing Revolution,” is about the ways different political actors have laid claim to Tahrir Square, how they interpreted and articulated its meanings, and how they discursively positioned it within their own visions of the continuing Egyptian revolution.
While recognizing that ‘revolution’ is a political and economic process, I treat it above all as a symbolic process through which people assign meaning to dramatic, difficult and dangerous events. To understand this process, I turn to Victor Turner’s model of social drama.
Turner saw revolutions as processes in which events in which symbols were put into action but which also had symbolic significance in themselves. As ‘social dramas,’ revolutions exhibited a structure: there was an initial breach of the social and political order, followed by a period of liminality when the old order had ended but no new order had emerged, accompanied by intense sociality (communitas) and political instability and creativity (antistructure). Eventually, redressive mechanisms come into operation to reintegrate rival factions into a new coherent order.
I argue that while the eighteen days in Tahrir Square neatly fit Victor Turner’s concepts of liminality, communitas and antistructure, the revolution failed to exhibit the inexorable ‘decline and fall into structure and law’ that Turner’s model predicts. On the contrary, the Egyptian public sphere turned into what Turner calls an arena, in which the many political and social visions of a new, post-Mubarak Egypt are contested and struggled over, and various political institutions – from the remnants of the old regime to the narrowly elected president and his Muslim Brotherhood associates to the revolutionary youth to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) – struggle to create a new hegemonic narrative to define Egypt.
Central to the actions of these political agents and the contested discourses that seek to explain them are multiple versions of what the ‘real’ uprising in Tahrir was about. Long after the uprisings that ousted President Mubarak, Tahrir Square remains a significant symbol in efforts to construct moments of meaning in the contingent, unfolding experience of the ongoing revolution.
The rest of the chapters cover a wide range of topical and theoretical territories, making the volume an excellent contribution to the literature on the Egyptian revolution.
Here’s the jacket blurb:
In 2011 the world watched as Egyptians rose up against a dictator. Observers marveled at this sudden rupture, and honed in on the heroes of Tahrir Square. “Revolutionary Egypt “analyzes this tumultuous period from multiple perspectives, bringing together experts on the Middle East from disciplines as diverse as political economy, comparative politics and social anthropology.
Drawing on primary research conducted in Egypt and across the world, this book analyzes the foundations and future of Egypt’s revolution. Considering the revolution as a process, it looks back over decades of popular resistance to state practices and predicts the waves still to come. It also confidently places Egypt’s revolutionary process in its regional and international contexts, considering popular contestation of foreign policy trends as well as the reactions of external actors. It draws connections between Egyptians struggles against domestic despotism and their reactions to regional and international processes such as economic liberalization, Euro-American interventionism and similar struggles further afield.
And here’s the Table of Contents:
Foreword Charles Tripp
Introduction: Connecting Players and Process in Revolutionary Egypt Reem Abou-El-Fadl
Part I: Contesting Authority, Making Claims: Inside Egypt
1.Reluctant Revolutionaries? The Dynamics of Labour Protests in Egypt, 2006-2013 Marie Duboc
2.After the 25 January Revolution: Democracy or Authoritarianism in Egypt? Nicola Pratt
3.Re-envisioning Tahrir: The Changing Meanings of Tahrir Square in Egypt’s Ongoing Revolution Mark Allen Peterson
4. The Iconic Stage: Martyrologies and Performance Frames in the January 25th Revolution Walter Armbrust
5. From Popular Revolution to Semi-Democracy: Egypt’s Experiment with Praetorian Parliamentarism Alexander Kazamias
Part II: Contesting Authority, Making Claims: At the Interface
6. Egypt’s Foreign Policy from Mubarak to Mursi: Between Systemic Constraints and Domestic Politics Raymond Hinnebusch
7.Re-scaling Egypt’s Political Economy: Neoliberalism and the Transformation of the Regional Space Adam Hanieh
8. The Geopolitics of Revolution: Assessing the Tunisian and Egyptian Revolutions in the International Context Corinna Mullin
Part III: Reactions and Recalibrations: Beyond Egypt
9. Between Cairo and Washington: Sectarianism and Counter-revolution in Post-Mubarak Egypt Reem Abou-El-Fadl
10. Liberation Square, Almost Unnoticed, Returns with a Vengeance: Perceptions of Tahrir and the Arab Revolutions in Turkey Kerem Öktem
11. Revolutions, the Internet, and Orientalist Reminiscence Miriyam Aouragh
12. The Egyptian Revolution and the Problem of International Solidarity Anthony C Alessandrini