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Making or breaking resistance : Women's rights activism in contemporary Egypt

Sundkvist, Emma LU (2016) Middle East Studies Association, Annual meeting
Abstract
The last five years of unfolding political unrest in Egypt and beyond has urged research to explore activism beyond civil society and NGO-work in the region. This has generated a turn towards social movement theory (SMT) which has revealed both the limits and possibilities of SMT when applied to different sites of the Arab world (Akder 2013, Durac 2015, Tadros 2011). While the dominant focus has been to understand how and why the uprisings occurred, this paper takes the opportunity to explore the particular context in Egypt five years later in the light of this theoretical shift.
While completing fieldwork with young feminist activists in Cairo, from both traditional NGO’s and other politically driven groups, their perception of the... (More)
The last five years of unfolding political unrest in Egypt and beyond has urged research to explore activism beyond civil society and NGO-work in the region. This has generated a turn towards social movement theory (SMT) which has revealed both the limits and possibilities of SMT when applied to different sites of the Arab world (Akder 2013, Durac 2015, Tadros 2011). While the dominant focus has been to understand how and why the uprisings occurred, this paper takes the opportunity to explore the particular context in Egypt five years later in the light of this theoretical shift.
While completing fieldwork with young feminist activists in Cairo, from both traditional NGO’s and other politically driven groups, their perception of the political and their respective activities challenged the imagined divide between civil society and other forms of political resistance. If civil society is framed as in rights claims against a state, meaning that the idea of the state is as a right provider, other forms of activism can be viewed as “space making” of rights outside the state. In order to comprehend and explain how resistance is framed and pursued in authoritarian regimes, this paper will discuss the theoretical concepts of the state, the political and human rights in relation to resistance. This debate draws on critique and development of Hannah Arendt’s perception of the political as a space full of indeterminate and inherently unending struggles and the ultimate meaning of freedom. How we perceive and understand the state, the political and human rights also set the contours of how we define the civil society, other forms of activism and the imagined boundaries between the two.
Following an outline of the concepts, the paper will relate these to the feminist critique of feminist legal activism that have been argued counterproductive because it cements state dependency and identity boundaries (Brown 1995, Lloyd 2005 , Zerelli 2005). This critique often results in a call for action beyond law. The adherent issue to this plea is to under specific conditions produce a political consciousness with the potential to pursue this alternative project (McNay 2010). I will argue that in a context where the voice of resistance is urgent and the public space is shrinking, law and legal institutions are often the remaining space for creating a limited yet existing arena within which activists can sustain public discussions of gender related issues. (Less)
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Middle East Studies Association, Annual meeting
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@misc{8b1c4b58-fd37-4020-8eb6-c24fd31929ba,
  abstract     = {The last five years of unfolding political unrest in Egypt and beyond has urged research to explore activism beyond civil society and NGO-work in the region. This has generated a turn towards social movement theory (SMT) which has revealed both the limits and possibilities of SMT when applied to different sites of the Arab world (Akder 2013, Durac 2015, Tadros 2011). While the dominant focus has been to understand how and why the uprisings occurred, this paper takes the opportunity to explore the particular context in Egypt five years later in the light of this theoretical shift. <br/>While completing fieldwork with young feminist activists in Cairo, from both traditional NGO’s and other politically driven groups, their perception of the political and their respective activities challenged the imagined divide between civil society and other forms of political resistance. If civil society is framed as in rights claims against a state, meaning that the idea of the state is as a right provider, other forms of activism can be viewed as “space making” of rights outside the state. In order to comprehend and explain how resistance is framed and pursued in authoritarian regimes, this paper will discuss the theoretical concepts of the state, the political and human rights in relation to resistance. This debate draws on critique and development of Hannah Arendt’s perception of the political as a space full of indeterminate and inherently unending struggles and the ultimate meaning of freedom. How we perceive and understand the state, the political and human rights also set the contours of how we define the civil society, other forms of activism and the imagined boundaries between the two. <br/>Following an outline of the concepts, the paper will relate these to the feminist critique of feminist legal activism that have been argued counterproductive because it cements state dependency and identity boundaries (Brown 1995, Lloyd 2005 , Zerelli 2005). This critique often results in a call for action beyond law. The adherent issue to this plea is to under specific conditions produce a political consciousness with the potential to pursue this alternative project (McNay 2010). I will argue that in a context where the voice of resistance is urgent and the public space is shrinking, law and legal institutions are often the remaining space for creating a limited yet existing arena within which activists can sustain public discussions of gender related issues.},
  author       = {Sundkvist, Emma},
  language     = {eng},
  month        = {11},
  title        = {Making or breaking resistance : Women's rights activism in contemporary Egypt},
  year         = {2016},
}