A few days ago, I attended the first day of the conference From Tahrir: Revolution or Democratic Transition at the American University in Cairo (AUC). Researchers and activists were discussing the history and effects of the revolution.
We’ve heard it many times: The Egyptian revolution was unexpected. Especially in Western countries, it is often called “Facebook Revolution". That is not only wrong but insulting as it renders invisible the previous demonstrations, strikes and other political activities, going back 10 years or even longer, said prominent blogger and activist Hossam El-Hamalawy who blogs at 3arabawy.
This political activism has gone unnoticed by many researchers and political analysts, especially in the West. Why? Because they’ve been too occupied studying the formal institutions and have been more interested in concepts and models than what is happening on the ground, several panelists underlined, among others Maha Abdelrahman (Cambridge University) and Rabab El-Mahdi from the American University of Cairo who recently wrote about Orientalising the Egyptian uprising.
Young people developed new, innovative and effective modes of political activism, as Dina Shehata, from the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, explained. They were not interested in establishing political parties. Everything happened outside the formal structures.
The whole conference was videotaped and uploaded to YouTube.
I especially recommend watching the four mentioned presentations by Hossam El-Hamalawy, Maha Abdelrahman, Rabab El-Mahdi and Dina Shehata
(Maha Abdelrahman starts after 30 minutes)
(starts with the end of Maha Abdelrahman’s presentation, Rabab El-Mahdi begins after 7 minutes)
(Dina Shehata is the first speaker, followed by Hossam El-Hamalawy)
I wrote earlier about researchers that did see the uprising coming, and describe the “Arab Spring” as the culmination of a wave of much smaller and more localised strikes and demonstrations across the country, see especially Saba Mahmood: Democracy is not enough - Anthropologists on the Arab revolution part II.