2023/ 2024

Gennaro Gervasio

Subaltern Activism and the ‘Arab Uprisings’ in Egypt and Iraq

Previous Fellowships: 2022/ 2023

Gennaro Gervasio, a graduate of the University of Naples ‘L’Orientale’, 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 research interests include Marxism in the Arab world, the political role of Arab intellectuals, 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 the academic years 2022-24, he is an affiliated EUME Fellow at the Forum Transregionale Studien.

Subaltern Activism and the ‘Arab Uprisings’ in Egypt and Iraq

Inspired by Gramsci’s seminal work on the subaltern – taken back to its class dimension – this project is looking at the emergence of ‘subaltern subjects’ as the protagonists of the ‘Arab Uprisings’, with a main focus on Egypt and a secondary comparative focus on Iraq from 2011 onwards. The main argument is that, as ‘street politics’ played a fundamental role in the protest movements both before and after 2011, the role played by old and new form of social and political activism needs further and deeper investigation. Based on past extensive fieldwork, my research on Egypt is considering both those sites and actors of resistance with an established societal recognition – such as workers, women, students and civic activists – as well as those without a tradition of political activism, like the football ‘ultras’ and the self-organized resistance in the ‘social non-movements’ in urban areas and rural alike. Gramsci’s writings can help illuminate the different trajectories of subaltern activism especially in understanding whether, how and why these groups became distant from the subaltern actors they claimed to represent, and which strategies (if any) they followed to resist the post-July 2013 Counter-Revolution. Besides Egypt, I intend to investigate a much more recent and under-researched case, namely independent activism in Iraq before and after the 2019 ‘October Uprising’. In particular, my research aims at shedding light on newly established groups, created by the Uprising itself, which are trying to challenge the political and social order as a whole.