Spaces of Participation: Topographies of Political and Social Change in Morocco, Egypt and Palestine
The three projects undertaken by team members, varied as they are in their objects of study, conceptual frameworks and methodological tools, focus on the investigation of alternative venues of social and political engagement in contemporary Egypt. These venues seek to compensate for the restriction of public space through the creative extension of territoriality and means of representation.
The Rābiʿa al-ʿAdawiyya Sit-In: An Analytic Study of the Use of Public Sphere
This study investigates the Muslim Brotherhood sit-in that took place in Rābiʿa al-ʿAdawiyya mosque and intersection in July-August 2013. The highly controversial sit-in was a turning point in the recent history of the Muslim Brotherhood as it produced a new discourse that calls for retribution for the people who lost their lives on August 14th when the protest camp was raided by Egyptian security forces. The aim is to analyse the use of the mosque and the streets to assess how the geopolitical importance of the location influenced a discourse that put the sit-in in a classic Habermasian opposition with the state. Added to that, it will look into the dynamics of the sit-in in terms of the power relations within it and the confrontation with the state, as well as examine how the space is transformed and appropriated to accommodate a new community that was created to represent a certain political stance.
Digital Media and Informal Youth Collectives as Means of Social and Political Engagement
This study aims to examine the field of social, cultural and political expression due to internet/social media usage as an extension of the shrinking of public space. Due to this shrinking of public space, the constructed spaces (of the youth) need to be analysed in the public sphere and in a wider civil society before and after the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. Through the study of two youth initiatives ("Tweet Nadwa", nadwa being the Arabic word for forum or colloquium, and "Mosireen"- in English "Determined", a word play on Masriyeen, colloquial for Egyptians), different kinds of space and the use of multiple platforms will be investigated. Habermas' public sphere theory and the criticism presented to it will be used in order to understand how and why these initiatives transform virtual spaces into physical ones and vice versa.
Cyberspace as an Alternative Venue for Political Participation: A Study of Egyptian Visual User Created Content (UCC)
My research seeks to examine the relatively new phenomenon of internet users recreating politically subversive comics from already existing cultural material, through the digital manipulation of the image and its dissemination through social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter. The study utilizes Pierre Bourdieu's concept of cultural capital as a predominant research paradigm: how users'/agents' access to cultural capital impacts their ability to produce UCC, and the relationship between economic capital and cultural capital, if any. This study also examines some of the online communities which produce this form of UCC, considering factors like their economic class and age. In addition, this research explores some of the techniques the agents make use of in the creation of UCC such as remixing, Internet memes and culture jamming in a digital context. In so doing, the study seeks to shed light on how the digital context, even at times when cyberspace is heavily policed, can provide an alternative space for social and political participation.