Mobilizing the Past: Nubian Youth Political Engagement in post-2011 Egypt

By Mayada Madbouly
Submitted to Session P4751 (Spaces of Youth Political Engagement Six Years after the 2011 Uprisings, 2017 Annual Meeting
Pol Science
LCD Projector with Audio Patch or Speakers;
The Egyptian uprising that led to the fall of Hosni Mubarak on February 11, 2011, can be thought of as a “macro” revolution. People gathered in large numbers demanding “bread, freedom and social justice” as they agitated to change state power. However, focusing only on the macro level of Egypt's uprising and its aftermaths would mean to ignore the plethora of “micro revolutions” that are less spectacular, but no less important for understanding the spaces of agitation and dissent in the post-revolution period. Long after people left the squares and visible public spaces, the micro revolutions continued among different social groups, but with different dynamics. Hence, the so-called secondary demands emerged among religious groups, ethnic groups and groups with a specific socio-professional identity such as Copts, Nubians and Egyptian Medical Syndicate, to name a few. This paper focuses on Nubian political activism, one site of a “micro” revolution in post-2011 Egypt.
Nubian collective action witnessed a dynamic mobilization following the events of 2011, in which Nubian youth were especially active. In general, the Nubian community mobilized in response to various political decisions that concerned aspects of Nubian identity, land and rights. Inspired by the political turning point in 2011, Nubian Youth activists framed their discourse based on their collective memory. They politically used Egyptian Ancient Past and re-told the story of the forced displacement from a legal perspective. Their repertoires of action varied and ranged from forms of transnational deterritorialized cyberactivism to territorializing the anger via centralized activism in Cairo and decentralized activism in Aswan. Their collective action also included strategizing and negotiating with the authorities in a direct confrontation. This paper questions how Nubian Youth political engagement took advantage of their collective memory, heritage, the globalized context and their personal dispositions to reinforce their activism in post-2011 Egypt. Moreover, it addresses how Nubian Youth renewed their repertoires of action in response to each public policy that might challenge their demands – more specifically, “The Right to Return”.