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Contestation in marginalised spaces: dynamics of popular mobilisation and demobilisation in upper Egypt since 25 January 2011

Laveille, Yasmine (2016) Contestation in marginalised spaces: dynamics of popular mobilisation and demobilisation in upper Egypt since 25 January 2011. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Why and how do ordinary citizens lacking previous activist experience, come, at certain times, to stage protests, block roads, close public administrations, or occupy public spaces, in order to reclaim what they consider is their right? In Egypt, ordinary people have increasingly, albeit occasionally, endorsed protest as a means to press demands, as shown by a continuous frequency of popular mobilisations despite a very repressive context since July 2013. However, despite the persistence of serious grievances and limited results, most of these collective actions have not exceeded the local scale, remaining dispersed, discontinuous and ephemeral. This thesis argues that beyond repression and other authoritarian constraints, which only provide a partial explanation, most popular mobilisations are also prevented from expanding by the vicissitudes of leadership on the one hand, and a set of local sociocultural features on the other. Beyond traditional social movement studies, which mainly focused on urban and organised movements, this thesis analyses ordinary people’s isolated protests characterised by a basic organisation and a strong local anchorage. Based on fieldwork in southern Upper Egypt between January 2014 and April 2015, it provides an account of recent local dynamics of (de)mobilisation. Focusing on these discontinuous, dispersed and ephemeral forms of activism, it sheds light on the factors that interact in preventing a widening of local collective action. These factors include leaders’ limited ambitions, experience, and difficulties in coordinating in a highly authoritarian environment; activists’ co-optation; local logics of patronage and loyalties; gender, generational and other social divisions; and perceptions of cultural identity. The thesis also establishes that current national campaigns, mainly revolutionary change, labour protests and the proMuslim Brotherhood protest movement, do not appeal to the majority due to their lack of alternative political projects and perceived exclusionary character. This ultimately suggests why the beginning of a revolution was suspended.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2016 Yasmine Laveille
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
Sets: Departments > Government
Supervisor: Chalcraft, John

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