EUME Berliner Seminar
Wed 12 Apr 2023 | 17:00–18:30

Independent Civic Activism and the Egyptian Revolution: A Gramscian Perspective

Gennaro Gervasio (Università Roma Tre / EUME Fellow 2022/23), Chair: Hashem Abushama (University of Oxford / EUME Fellow 2023-25)

Forum Transregionale Studien, Wallotstr. 14, 14193 Berlin

Based on extensive fieldwork and on my ongoing research with Andrea Teti (University of Salerno), my presentation addresses a tension in explanations for the pre-2011 rise and post-Mubarak fall in influence of Independent Civic Activists (ICAs). Indeed, while it can be argued that ICAs were emerging as subaltern organic intellectuals before the ‘January Revolution’, during the period between Mubarak’s removal in February 2011 and the July 2013 coup, they did not capitalise on that groundwork but rather lost ground.ICAs’ post-revolutionary ‘defeat’ is usually attributed to an organisational capacity which was still indubitably secondary compared to the Muslim Brotherhood, let alone the Army or the Ministry of Interior. While the asymmetry is undeniable, this explanation seems insufficient: if that agency had been so effective under Mubarak despite the gross imbalance of material capabilities, its sudden irrelevance in the post-revolutionary period cannot be explained entirely by appealing to a pre-existing material imbalance which had not prevented ICAs’ rise.
Relying on Gramsci’s seminal writings on the subaltern – and on the ‘Southern Question’ especially-, I aim at mapping the trajectories of ICAs after Mubarak’s ouster, to offer a more nuanced assessment of their political fortunes, returning them an agency denied by other accounts.

Gennaro Gervasio is currently Associate Professor in History and Politics of the Middle East and North Africa in Roma Tre’s Department of Humanities. Previously, he has been the Director of the Centre for Middle East and North African Studies at Sydney’s Macquarie University (2009-11) and has been teaching and researching in Cairo from 2011 until 2016. His main research interests include Marxism in the Arab world, and civic activism and social movements in the Arab World (especially Egypt and Iraq). He is the author of al-Haraka al-Markisiyya fi Misr 1967-1981 (The Marxist Movement in Egypt 1967-81; Cairo 2010), and more recently has co-edited a special issue on Gramsci and the Uprisings in North Africa (2021). In 2023, he is an affiliated EUME Fellow at the Forum Transregionale Studien.

Hashem Abushama is a human geographer with interests in urban studies, cultural studies, and critical development geographies. He is currently a departmental lecturer at Oxford University’s School of Geography and the Environment and a EUME Fellow 2023 – 25.


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