Egyptian RURAL Protests Between the Urban Imaginary Construct and State Politics

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 11:15
Location: Hörsaal 26 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Malak ROUCHDY, The American University in Cairo, Egypt
Between January 2011 and until 2014, successive waves of protests and uprisings took place in the Egyptian streets and shook the society at large, all calling for political change and social justice. Concomitant to these waves of protests, the socio-economic and political conditions for the majority of the population continued to decline at a vertiginous rate. A closer examination of the literature of this period indicates that protesters came from the vast array of the Egyptian society and different geographic regions. However, the participation of peasant wageworkers, farmers and rural residents, remained understudied.

This paper will focus on the practices adopted by peasant wageworkers, farmers and rural residents to mobilize and protest against the prevailing socio-economic and political conditions. It will examine closely the factors that brought together rural protesters in seemingly sporadic actions, and will situate their demands within the larger ever-changing socio-political scene. The paper will also demonstrate, through an analysis of the discursive practices of the elite, how rural expression of grievances remained an obscure social dimension that the successive centralized governments apprehended and used to consecrate societal fears.

Finally, this study will suggest that rural residents and farmers’ protests were group actions that unfolded as citizen movements within the larger socio-political dynamics, and folded at times of cooptation and intense levels of state repression. These actions were seldom recognized and supported by urban milieu as they took place in regions that have been historically marginalized by the centralized state. Therefore, these riots and protests were not only the expression of contentious grievances but they were equally the illustration of a societal imaginary construct of urban/rural divide that has been consecrated by the ruling elites.