Egyptian Civil Society and (Political) Education: Opportunities for Resilient Authoritarianism, or Prospects for a “Radical” Educational Movement?

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 10:45
Location: Hörsaal 26 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Nadim MIRSHAK, University of Manchester, United Kingdom
As we approach the fifth anniversary of the Arab “uprisings”, the demands for bread, freedom and social justice are yet to be attained. This failure to fulfil the demands of the Egyptian people necessitates taking a more nuanced and critical approach in order to help us understand why such “uprisings” have failed, at least temporarily. Discussions concerning revolutionary transitions and democratic social change can never be complete without an elaborate consideration of the role education could play in aiding, and inhibiting such social change. After 2011, the importance of “political” education and the development of “critical consciousness” have come to the fore of many discussions and debates. However, looking closely at the “non-formal” educational movement in Egypt (i.e. that located within Egyptian civil society), will reveal a deeper struggle ensuing between the State and a number of progressive civil society organisations (CSOs). Such a struggle manifests itself in the State’s strategies to subdue CSOs and their educational initiatives, as well as the CSOs’ own efforts to evade, and resist such oppressive State tactics. Through adopting a Gramscian framework that encourages viewing civil society as a terrain of hegemonic struggle, and of potential political education, I will firstly analyse how authoritarianism has been relatively resilient through utilising a combination of “soft” and “hard” repressive methods, as well as co-opting CSOs and intellectuals. Secondly, I will then explore how despite such impediments, a number of CSOs are finding ways to resist the authoritarian system by utilising methods that enable their educational initiatives to bypass and function under these restrictions. Such an analysis will highlight the importance of viewing the nature of authoritarianism and State-(civil) society relations through a more distinctive and critical manner.