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New Asymmetries in the New Authoritarianism: Research in Egypt in the Age of Post-Revolution

  • Lucie Ryzova (a1)

Extract

Egypt was at the center of a wave of uprisings and revolutions that swept the region between 2011 and 2013, the common denominator of which was demands for a radical democratic alternative to authoritarian regimes variously formulated around social justice and political rights. While the Middle East was a major theater of these events, with Tunisia, Egypt, Lybia, Syria, Bahrain, and Yemen sharing the headlines, the processes that informed these uprisings were also deeply global. The year 2011 was a revolutionary year, maybe the last in history, when actors differently positioned in the neoliberal social landscape mobilized in different ways, from the Occupy Movement to the London riots. The demise, or better, defeat, of these movements has reverberated profoundly around the globe, highlighting the postdemocratic nature of governance in contemporary states. One of the effects of the rise of new authoritarianism across Europe and the United States is a palpable transformation in the asymmetry between outside observer and the local observed. Researchers now face a reshaping, in some ways a leveling, of differences between “us” and “them” and the distinct temporality used to underpin this asymmetry. Nothing could illustrate this better than the fact that as I write, Egypt's president ʿAbd al-Fattah al-Sisi is enjoying a warm welcome in the White House. The narrative is no longer framed through the worn-out trope of an Arab leader aspiring to modernize his country through pledging allegiance to the leader of the Free World in exchange for aid and armaments; now the man in the White House implicitly pledges to learn from the Arab dictator. Egypt is the pioneer; the United States is the relative latecomer to the Age of New Authoritarianism.

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NOTES

1 See, for instance, Crouch, Colin, Post-Democracy (Cambridge: Polity, 2004); Achille Mmembe, “The Age of Humanism Is Ending,” Mail & Guardian, 22 December 2016, accessed 17 April 2017, https://mg.co.za/article/2016-12-22-00-the-age-of-humanism-is-ending/; and Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, “Donald Trump Is Not the Problem, He Is the Symptom,” Open Democracy, 20 January 2017, accessed 17 April 2017, https://www.opendemocracy.net/nafeez-mosaddeq-ahmed/donald-trump-is-not-problem-he-s-symptom.

2 Though it is important to stress which Egyptians. Class has always played a role in the ways Egyptians were treated by their jailors, but the revolutionary process of 2011–13 importantly reshaped these hierarchies. With the important exception of Khalid Saʿid in June 2010, middle-class Egyptians were not subject to physical torture under the Mubarak regime in the same routine manner as low-income men, nor to class-based forms of police bullying. This has now changed, with young middle-class people being equally subject to physical violence and especially to forced disappearances and arbitrary detention.

4 Interpretations of it range from the act of a rough agent to part of a power struggle between different security services to embarrass the presidency.

5 Maha Abdelrahman, “Report Thy Neighbour: Policing Sisi's Egypt,” Open Democracy, 23 February 2015, accessed 17 April 2017, https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/maha-abdelrahman/report-thy-neighbour-policing-sisi%E2%80%99s-egypt.

6 Saad, Reem, “Shame, Reputation and Egypt's Lovers: A Controversy over the Nation's Image,” Visual Anthropology 10 (1998): 401–12.

7 I thank Pascale Ghazaleh and an anonymous foreign researcher who did not wish to be named for sharing their experiences with me.

8 See Khaled Fahmy, “The Production of Knowledge,” Egypt Independent, 6 March 2012, accessed 17 April 2017, http://www.egyptindependent.com/opinion/production-knowledge; and Fahmy “The Tragedy of Books in Egypt,” Ahram Online, 29 August 2012, accessed 17 April 2017, http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/51572.aspx.

9 Mona Abaza, “Academic Tourist Sight-Seeing the Arab Spring,” Jadaliyya, 27 September 2011, accessed 17 April 2017, http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/2767/academic-tourists-sight-seeing-the-arab-spring.

10 Canary Mission, accessed 5 April 2017, https://canarymission.org/.

11 HM Government, “Prevent Duty Guidance,” accessed 5 April 2017, http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukdsi/2015/9780111133309/pdfs/ukdsiod_9780111133309_en.pdf

12 David Matthews, “Central European University in Peril as Hungary Passes Law,” 4 April 2017, accessed 5 April 2017, https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/central-european-university-peril-hungary-passes-law.

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International Journal of Middle East Studies
  • ISSN: 0020-7438
  • EISSN: 1471-6380
  • URL: /core/journals/international-journal-of-middle-east-studies
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