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Gender Lunch Talk: A thug, a revolutionary or both? Negotiating masculinity in post-revolutionary Egypt

Dec 13, 2018 | 12:30 PM - 01:30 PM

The Gender Lunch Talks are a series of networking events held by the MvBZ aiming to make gender research within Freie Universität Berlin more visible. At each event, projects and recent publications are presented and discussed. There will be three events in Winter Term 2018/19.

The talks will be given either in German or English.

Input on 13.12.2018

Dina Wahba, Otto-Suhr-Institut für Politikwissenschaft

A thug, a revolutionary or both? Negotiating masculinity in post-revolutionary Egypt

During the Egyptian revolution in 2011, the urban subaltern or popular forces have been at the heart of what constitutes ‘the people’ in the infamous slogan “the people demand the downfall of the regime” (Ismail 2013). During the 18 days of the revolution, around 100 police stations in popular quarters in Cairo were burned down. Official accounts reported this as the work of thugs ‘Baltagyya’. The question of who burned the police stations during the 18 days serve as an entry point to problematize the identity of ‘Baltagyya’ rather than simply posit them in opposition with ‘revolutionaries’. The revolutionary moment blurred the lines between who is a thug and who is a revolutionary. Since all protestors were outlaws, everyone became a thug. I argue that this was a moment of subversion and renegotiation of the affective dispositions of the urban poor. Hemmings (2005) argues that bodies are captured and held by affective structures. The revolutionary moment presented an opportunity of aggressive demarcation of bodies, which I believe is also embedded in disruptions to the gender order. As a reaction to the 25th of January revolution, several writers signaled a crisis in masculinity in the Middle East (Amar 2011). The same ideas flooded newspapers and were adopted by various analysts who claimed that what it means to be a man in Egypt is changing, and a new order of masculinity is emerging out of the Egyptian revolution. However, attempts to restore gender norms escalated to systematic violence against revolutionaries and women. Violence is one way to restore the gender order and reassert the system of domination (Connell 2001). Less than a month after the revolution, a clear message was conveyed to women, you are no longer needed, go back to your ascribed gender roles (Sholkamy 2011). Building on the above accounts, I believe that examining the gendered affective registers linked to the ‘Baltagy’ and the mechanics of their creation are essential in understanding local politics, the potential of the revolutionary moment and the urgency with which the state had to quickly reinstate the historical narrative of the ‘Baltagy’ as a dangerous criminal to justify mass violence, shift blame and speed urban transformation projects.

Time & Location

Dec 13, 2018 | 12:30 PM - 01:30 PM

Habelschwerdter Allee 45, Raum KL 29/135 (Rost- und Silberlaube)

Further Information


Dr. Sabina García-Peter