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ROUGIER Bernard, LACROIX Stéphane, SCHOCH Cynthia, and ANGELL John. 2016. Egypt's Revolutions : Politics, Religion, and Social Movements. New York City : Palgrave Macmillan

Sara Tonsy
p. vol 143

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1Political scientists provided various analyses of the “so-called Arab Spring” during the last couple of years, but the continuous events and unconsolidated new governments in the respective countries still have more room for researchers to conquer. The case of Egypt – the largest Arab country swept by the wave of Arab uprisings since 2011 – is one that required analyses on different levels. However, with the speediness of the events starting 2011 and the concentration of researchers on whether what took place was a “revolution” (or not) was followed by yet another “revolution” in 2013. In the edited collection Egypt’s Revolutions: Politics, Religion and Social Movements, Stephane Lacroix and Bernard Rougier as editors provided an introduction that puts away all dialectic, discourse and media arguments aside. They focus on the Egyptian political field; the religious movements that politicized or ‘Islam-ified’ the revolutions, and the other forms of mobilizations that simultaneously took place (religious and secular). With a defined time frame, this book looks back on the events from 2011 until 2014 while exploring the political, institutional and social aspects of the January 2011 and the July 2013 uprisings.

2The book is divided into three main parts followed by profiles of five different Egyptian personalities. Although the main questions addressed in this volume might not be clearly stated in the introduction but each of the contributors provided their own research problems in their respective chapters, complementing one another. The first section covered the Islamist experience in power in Egypt from different facets. Patrick Haenni and Marie Vannetzel examined the reasons behind the failure of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in power and the “disaffection” with the Islamists altogether that resulted from this failure. As Haenni concentrated on the MB’s performance in the political field, Vannetzel analyzed the MB’s failure on the social side, and the undermining of their own “social embeddedness” (p.42).

  • 1 Beinin, Joel (2014), « Le rôle des ouvriers dans les soulèvements populaires arabes de 2011 », Le M (...)

3In chapter three, Amr Adly provides a different take on the events starting 2011 than Haenni and Vannetzel by giving an economic analysis of the MB’s experience in power. He outlined their dependency on the ancien regime’s existing political economy; Adly argues that the MB had a non-ideological “conservative” take on the Egyptian economy (p. 63). Independent trade unions, referred too briefly by Adly, are among the most important politically active organizations in Egypt today and were the object of study by several scholars among whom are Joel Benin and the late Guilio Regeni1.

  • 2 Steuer uses the definition from Guillermo O’Donnell, Philippe Schmitter and Laurence Whitehead.

4The second part of this volume is entitled “Government Institutions and Political Processes”. Clement Steuer in his chapter concentrates on the prioritization of political issues as according to the parties in the Egyptian political field. Steuer argues that although most elected bodies since 2011 were annulled in one way or another but there were two “founding elections” that mark this “transition” period2.

  • 3 Korany, Bahgat, and Rabab El-Mahdi. Arab spring in Egypt: Revolution and Beyond. London: I.B.Tauris (...)

5Further, Steuer leans in his argument towards what scholars like Holger Albrecht, Rabab El-Mahdi and Bahgat Korany referred to as an “authoritarian transformation” rather than a democratic transition3.

  • 4 Brown goes as far back as 1952.

6Nathan Brown provides an in-depth analysis of the Egyptian judicial system, referring to the “judicialization” of politics post-20114. Brown concludes that there are no steps towards an independent judicial system. This results in a divided state system with unaccountable separate authorities, which he refers to as “Balkanization of the Egyptian state” (p. 120). In the subsequent chapter Zaid Al-Ali gives a comparative analysis of the three constitutions that Egypt witnessed starting 2011. Al-Ali argues that although the 2014 constitution’s text – allegedly – has “improvements” but the state institutions are granted more independence and privileges; stressing that the issue of enforcement of the text is always the culprit (p. 123-125). Thus, there are no radical changes in the composition of the text and/or the system of government that reflect the demands of the people starting 2011. In the last chapter of this part of the volume Hala Bayoumi and Bernard Rougier revisit the different elections held from 2011-13 but differently than Steuer. Bayoumi and Rougier provide numbers arguing that the “revolution” changed the sociology of the Egyptians’ votes. They conclude that the “second stratum” that political elites depended upon to rule Egypt is withering away, which they assert still needs further fieldwork to be proven.

  • 5 Lacroix and Shalata describe this movement as a “social . . . informal and heterogeneous” movement (...)

7 In the third part of this volume religious – Islamist and Coptic – and labor movements are the primary focus. Stephane Lacroix and Ahmed Zaghloul Shalata cover the Salafist movement since 2011, specifically the newly found Revolutionary Salafism5. Lacroix and Shalata concentrate in their chapter on the way by which this Salafi movement rose to the forefront in the Egyptian political field, and their use of pre-revolutionary “political resources” to enter it and compete. They focus on Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, the “mentor” or ‘godfather’ of the movement. Chapter nine is about the Sinai Peninsula and “terrorism,” which was written by currently detained researcher and journalist Ismail Alexandrani. Alexandrani highlights his knowledge of the area while drawing on the “production of terrorism” by the state. This production is the result of violence – through policies or coercion – which goes back to the Mubarak era but increased as the army re-entered Sinai in 2011.

8After that Nadine Abdalla covered the labor movement using numbers of protests at the beginning of her chapter, while highlighting that these protests were not under the official Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF). She states that the workers’ protests neither politicized their movement nor confronted ETUF by making independent trade unions before 2011. Abdalla’s main argument is regarding the state’s attempt to institutionalize the workers’ protests in order to pressure them into concessions through politics. Covering the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions (EFITU) shows a different and seldom ignored power dynamics in the Egyptian political field, which Abdalla covers extensively since its formation in 2011. The Christian and Coptic community’s contributions and mobilization during – and before – the revolution is visited by Gaétan du Roy, which is an overdue topic seldom attended to in other books about post-2011 Egypt. Du Roy identifies two main trends within the Christian Egyptian community since before 2011: one, ethno-nationalist Coptic trend and a second “charismatic” trend that focuses on international unity of all Christians. Then du Roy embarks on his analysis of how both trends sought after enforcing their presence during the “revolutionary” period through various respective movements. The final chapter by Roman Stadnicki covers the aspect of urbanism with regards to the 2011 uprising, its events and consequences on Egypt’s informal and formal urban sectors. Stadnicki integrates in his analysis the rise of “urban activism” and revolves around the question of whether Egypt is witnessing an “urban revolution” (p. 237).

9 In the final part of this book different profiles on varied political and/or social figures were illustrated. The profiles provide required information for researchers about the current Egyptian president; also about ex-president Morsi and his ‘behind the scenes man,’ Khairat el-Shatter. However, there is no clear indication regarding the criteria by which these specific personalities were chosen. The profiles also include those of Hamdin Sabbahi and Yasser Borhami.

  • 6 Rougier, Bernard and Stéphane Lacroix. L'Égypte en Révolutions, 1re édition, Paris, Presses univers (...)
  • 7 When 70 of the Ultras Ahlawy spectators were killed in Al-Masri stadium in Port Said. For further d (...)

10 The book provides a lot of information about the Egyptian case in the aftermath of the Egyptian uprising of 2011, with relevant socio-political and historical backgrounds. Despite the book’s relevancy, several points should be pointed out. One is that this volume was originally published in the French language6. A note on translation is vital because there were some meanings and arguments that were demonstrated by the different authors in the French version that were less evident in the English one. Two, although the reference to the Ultras was made in Lacroix and Shalata’s chapter but the Ultras as a social mobilizing force deserves more attention. Especially that they still use their movement until today to voice discontent among the people, like on the anniversary in 2016 of the Port Said massacre7. Another aspect that could have been interesting in this volume is the Tamarod (Rebel) movement started in late 2012, which started the anti-Morsi petition that lead to the 2013 uprising, the second “revolution” covered in this book. Moreover, although in several chapters “youth” were mentioned, but there was no clear manifestation as to what was their exact role as a “segment” – or not – of Egyptian socio-political outcasts that should not be ignored by the state, particularly because of the 2011-2013 uprisings. Finally, a profile about Hazem Salah Abu Ismail would have complemented Lacroix and Shalata’s chapter by providing in-depth information about the founder of the revolutionary Salafisme; an interesting mutation of a previously anti-political movement.

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Notes

1 Beinin, Joel (2014), « Le rôle des ouvriers dans les soulèvements populaires arabes de 2011 », Le Mouvement Social, no. 246, p. 7-27. Regeni, Giulio. “In Egypt, Second Life for Independent Trade Unions,” Il Manifesto, Cairo, 6 February 2016.

2 Steuer uses the definition from Guillermo O’Donnell, Philippe Schmitter and Laurence Whitehead.

3 Korany, Bahgat, and Rabab El-Mahdi. Arab spring in Egypt: Revolution and Beyond. London: I.B.Tauris, 2012, p. 264.

4 Brown goes as far back as 1952.

5 Lacroix and Shalata describe this movement as a “social . . . informal and heterogeneous” movement (p. 168).

6 Rougier, Bernard and Stéphane Lacroix. L'Égypte en Révolutions, 1re édition, Paris, Presses universitaires de France, 2015.

7 When 70 of the Ultras Ahlawy spectators were killed in Al-Masri stadium in Port Said. For further details about the Ultras see: Amin Allal, « Supporters ou révolutionnaires? Les ultras du Caire », Mouvements, (2), 2014, 110-116.

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Sara Tonsy, « ROUGIER Bernard, LACROIX Stéphane, SCHOCH Cynthia, and ANGELL John. 2016. Egypt's Revolutions : Politics, Religion, and Social Movements. New York City : Palgrave Macmillan », Revue des mondes musulmans et de la Méditerranée [En ligne], Lectures inédites, mis en ligne le 03 février 2017, consulté le 18 août 2017. URL : http://remmm.revues.org/9538

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Sara Tonsy

IEP-Aix, CHERPA, Aix-en-Provence, s_tonsy@aucegypt.edu

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