Since January 2011, Egyptians have been writing history, and the rest of us have been trying to keep up. They have mobilized in record-breaking numbers nationwide, toppling not one but two presidents in as many years. They have helped galvanize movements for political, social and economic change across the Arab world, and inspired others even further afield. And in so doing, they have compelled reviews of policy and even realignments among regional and international power players. At each stage, there have been setbacks, severe polarizations, and concerted efforts to contain the revolutionary process: the outcomes remain undetermined. This book is an attempt to grapple with this history in the making by illuminating the connections between Egyptian, regional and international levels that have driven events forward. No greater challenge has faced the community of scholars studying the Arab world than the need to make sense of the panorama of change known as the ‘Arab uprisings’. This challenge has presented itself in successive, extraordinary waves from Tunisia to Egypt, Libya to Bahrain, and Yemen to Syria. The first response in this volume has been to focus on Egypt, amidst the wider scholarly debate on the Arab revolutionary phenomena of 2010 onwards, for two reasons. First, Egypt’s preeminent influence in the region is well known: it is the most populous Arab country, geographically central, and a regional pioneer in political, economic and cultural realms. It is often dubbed ‘the natural leader of the Arab world’, and its trends and precedents have long echoed loudly beyond its borders. Notwithstanding scholarly differences over Egypt’s regional record, many agree that the fortunes of the Egyptian revolution have been vital to those of its fellow uprisings across the Arab world, as well as to the next chapters of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and to regional and international balances in general. Second, considering the Arab-wide dimension, as many have done, is relevant
and indeed refreshing, but it can also emphasize macro-level processes or themes while limiting the exploration of how they play out in different places. This volume chooses to burrow deep into the Egyptian case, so that the themes that are critical to Egypt emerge from the undertaking. The extraordinary eighteen days from 25 January to 11 February 2011, during which a nationwide uprising toppled president Hosni Mubarak, captured imaginations worldwide and triggered an unceasing stream of analysis. This literature can be divided into four main trends. One group of writers looked at Egypt through the lens of transition and democratization theories (Brynen et al. 2012, Stepan and Linz 2013), a second focused on the role of new technologies of communication (Allagui and Kuebler 2011, El-Nawawy and Khamis 2013), a third began charting the new social movements and groups in Egyptian politics and their demands (Abdelrahman 2012, Korany and El-Mahdi 2012, Mack and Asad 2012, Chalcraft 2013, Tripp 2013), while a fourth considered the implications of change in Egypt for international relations and political economy (Ayoob 2011, Dalacoura 2012, Soliman 2012, Kamrava 2012). The connections between popular-domestic, regional and international planes have been addressed less frequently. This volume presents thirteen scholars’ engagement with both the domestic and the external dimensions of the 2011 Egyptian revolution. It seeks to draw out the connections between contestations of authority in Egypt and the constraining and enabling of actors and processes abroad. The chapters are clustered into three sections, separated purely for analytical purposes. They cover, first, popular contestations of politics located predominantly in the domestic Egyptian sphere; second, popular contestations of politics at the interface between Egyptian and regional or international spheres; and third, the reactions and recalibrations which this triggered regionally and internationally, beyond Egypt. Accordingly, the contributors discuss the ways in which the making of both domestic and foreign policy has been sensitized to popular demands through the revolutionary process, and they examine critically the legacy of foreign intervention in Egyptian affairs as well as the engagement with the Egyptian revolution of hegemonic and counter-hegemonic actors on the world stage. As scholars of international relations and comparative politics increasingly call for work at precisely these interfaces, this volume presents Egypt as an empirically rich and theoretically instructive case study. This book encompasses disciplinary perspectives not only from politics but also from anthropology, sociology, history and political economy. The volume does not presuppose clear boundaries between three ‘spheres’ or ‘levels of analysis’: these terms are used for reasons of clarity, and indeed to facilitate discussion of their porous nature. Taking the three sections in order, the same actors and processes are discussed in relation to themes as diverse as labour rights, Egyptian national identity, and US-Tunisian relations, evidencing the myriad connections argued for in this collection.