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Chair: Dr Corinna Mullin (School of Oriental and African Studies)
· Hani Morsi (University of Sussex)
The virtualization of dissent: Popular political action between virtual space and real space in the 2011 Egyptian revolution from a participant-observer’s perspective.
Indisputably, modern information and communication technologies (ICTs) have played a central role in the events of the Arab Spring. The exact nature of this role is, however, still up for conjecture and intense debate. What could be claimed with a safe degree of certainty, however, is that extant paradigms of power, participation and representation are being challenged, ways of thinking about grassroots activism are being revisited and several historical comparisons are being drawn in attempts to make sense of the shifting landscape of popular political action, especially with new technologies playing a centre-stage role.
This paper examines the role ICTs have played in the 2011 Egyptian revolution against the backdrop of theories of change. This role is viewed as an enabler of and catalyst to a dynamic relationship between ‘virtual space’ where political dissidence have been transplanted to reignite a stifled social discourse on change, and ‘real space’, where a subsequent surge of such a reanimated discourse in the form of confrontational political action has taken place. The paper draws on research undertaken in my capacity as participant observer in the events of the 2011 Egyptian revolution, and is based on interviews with youth activists and content analysis of social media from Egypt. The paper intends to elucidate the dynamics of technology-driven social change, framed within the social and political contexts in which the Egyptian uprising unfolded.
· Mona El-Kouedi (King's College London)
Continuity and change in the making of Egyptian public spaces
The rise of Tahrir Square as an Egyptian public space that resisted the ruling regime of Mubarak was described as being an unprecedented moment in Egypt’s contemporary history. Nevertheless, this ignores the fact that the making of Egyptian public spaces of resistance is a defining characteristic of Egyptian power struggles that is not confined to the Mubarak regime. In my paper, I argue that there are both factors of continuity and change in the making of Egyptian public spaces, in which other physical spaces in Egypt had been transformed into public spaces of resistance, putting immense pressure on the ruling regime. I will particularly focus on the making of the factory, the university, the street and Tahrir Square as public spaces of resistance in two different episodes of contestation. I will show how in February 1968, the factory, the university and the street were transformed into public spaces of resistance against the Nasser regime. I will also show how in January 1972, the university and Tahrir Square were transformed into public spaces of resistance against the Sadat regime. Accordingly, the making of Egyptian public spaces should be seen as an ongoing process that embraces both factors of continuity and change.
· Edwige Fortier (School of Oriental and African Studies)
Civil society in transition: An examination of the impact of the Arab Spring on associations working with marginalised populations in Tunisia
The post-revolutionary period in North Africa reveals a range of associational actors emerging to claim spaces previously occupied by hegemonic authorities. Since January 2011, the terrain for civil society in Tunisia has widened with a ten-fold increase in political parties and the establishment of hundreds of new associations. This research examines the ways in which the democratisation of associative spaces in post-revolutionary environments can have particular ramifications for organisations working with marginalised communities and the marginalised populations themselves. Many organisations working in the field of HIV/AIDS are confronting political and socio-cultural systems in North Africa. The research examines associations working with populations affected by HIV/AIDS in Tunisia and looks to the pre- and post-revolutionary associational context for these organisations. Neo-liberal discourses underscore the inherent role for civil society in the transition to, and consolidation of, democratic processes. Nevertheless, how organisations working with marginalised groups manoeuvre during this transition remains unclear. Moreover, the role of these associations during the transition to democracy requires further analysis. During post-revolutionary periods of transition, whilst associative spaces for enhanced political expression may expand, spaces for supporting marginalised populations may contract. Therefore, every shift in this revolutionary terrain is in fact creatively destructive.
It seems that the uprisings in the Arab world have initiated a new global current which articulates new political and social claims from Cairo to Manama and Homs, from New York to Athens, Madrid and Tel Aviv. I argue in this paper that we are witnessing the development of a new global public sphere, which is fostered by a restructuring of the spatial framework of the global and the local. Based on this, I suggest that at first glance, powerless political activists operating in a local context can become influential by being part of a global assemblage, creating a moment of interaction, simultaneity, and mutual imagination and thus a new power of presence.
By taking the example of the ideational and performative orientation of Egyptian youth movements – particularly the April 6 Youth Movement – the present paper will illustrate how local political activism is structured by a global context.
The paper aims thereby at contributing to the further comprehension of the Egyptian revolution by taking its global linkages into consideration.