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Re-imagining citizenship(s) for ‘Bread, Freedom, and Social Justice’ in Egypt: Exploring theories and tensions of Arab youth citizenship

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Abstract:

The wave of mass protests and uprisings that began in Tunisia in December 2010 have beleaguered governments throughout many Arab states and regenerated interest in the political, social, and economic participation of Arab youth in post-Arab uprisings societies. Rather then painting Arab youth with a broad-brush stroke of apathy, complacency, or extremism, the Arab uprisings have challenged preconceived notions of Arab youth. The January 25, 2011 Egyptian Revolution, for instances, was driven, to a large extent, by the indignation and aspirations of young people. The chants of Aish, Horreya, Adala Egtema’eya (Bread, Freedom, and Social Justice) embodied the youth’s pursuit for an Egypt that is governed in a more equitable manner, offering Egyptians greater opportunities to politically and economically participate in the future development of their country. However, the current political transition in Egypt has been rife with vehement polarizing ideas about citizenship and the national direction of the country. The national unity and optimism towards social justice and democracy that characterized the Egyptian Revolution has now been replaced with a great social rift torn by political and ideological divisiveness, social breakdown and bouts of violence over the future identity of the Egyptian state.
Nonetheless, the current upheaval does not reflect a cultural inaptitude towards democracy, but rather a long and complex road toward indigenized Egyptian models of citizenship and democracy. The politicization of religious and secular identities and the polarization of sectarianism discredit democratic efforts and glosses over more critical issues of citizenship. Furthermore, this social and political divide masks the more vital task of national dialogue and reconciliation necessary to address the pressing social and economic challenges confronting all Egyptians. New visions of shared political and social spaces must come to the forefront where all citizens have the possibility to participate, and where the eighteen days exemplified by Tahrir Square becomes an Egyptian guide forward.
Consequently, in the aftermath of the ousting of former president Hosni Mubarak and subsequent turmoil in Egypt, what are the ways university students are perceiving and practicing citizenship, and to what extent are formal education institutions such as the university still relevant for the learning and development of new forms of citizenship?

The above research questions will guide a presentation whose purpose is to explore the literature and theories that inform a larger dissertation project on the emerging themes of youth citizenship in Egypt. Framed by a critical theory of Arab education perspective, the theoretical tensions within the sociology of citizenship, sociology of Arab youth, and citizenship education will be surveyed in this presentation. Arab youth are often dichotomously portrayed as secularists versus Islamists, or modern versus traditional, and the deficiency of democracy, modernity, and the development of western standards of citizenship that characterizes Egypt are explained by essentializing Arab culture as backward and rendering Islam monolithically autocratic. These interpretations of youth and citizenship habitually mask the multifaceted indigenized models of youth praxis of citizenship, thereby necessitating alternative perspectives of Arab youth and citizenship. Therefore, I will argue throughout this presentation that the amplification of narratives and experiences of Egyptian youth is crucial to problematize previous understanding of Arab youth and their commitments towards citizenship that have previously been connected to western views of modernity and democracy. The broad scope of this presentation is to build a theoretical framework essential to grasp the unexpected, unimagined, and multidimensional ways youth are perceiving and practicing citizenship for ‘bread, freedom, and social justice’ within the current social and political transition in Egypt.

Author's Keywords:

Arab Youth
Convention
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Association:
Name: Comparative and International Education Society Annual Conference
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MLA Citation:

Dorio, Jason. "Re-imagining citizenship(s) for ‘Bread, Freedom, and Social Justice’ in Egypt: Exploring theories and tensions of Arab youth citizenship" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Comparative and International Education Society Annual Conference, Sheraton Centre Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Mar 10, 2014 <Not Available>. 2014-12-10 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p708817_index.html>

APA Citation:

Dorio, J. N. , 2014-03-10 "Re-imagining citizenship(s) for ‘Bread, Freedom, and Social Justice’ in Egypt: Exploring theories and tensions of Arab youth citizenship" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Comparative and International Education Society Annual Conference, Sheraton Centre Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada <Not Available>. 2014-12-10 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p708817_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: The wave of mass protests and uprisings that began in Tunisia in December 2010 have beleaguered governments throughout many Arab states and regenerated interest in the political, social, and economic participation of Arab youth in post-Arab uprisings societies. Rather then painting Arab youth with a broad-brush stroke of apathy, complacency, or extremism, the Arab uprisings have challenged preconceived notions of Arab youth. The January 25, 2011 Egyptian Revolution, for instances, was driven, to a large extent, by the indignation and aspirations of young people. The chants of Aish, Horreya, Adala Egtema’eya (Bread, Freedom, and Social Justice) embodied the youth’s pursuit for an Egypt that is governed in a more equitable manner, offering Egyptians greater opportunities to politically and economically participate in the future development of their country. However, the current political transition in Egypt has been rife with vehement polarizing ideas about citizenship and the national direction of the country. The national unity and optimism towards social justice and democracy that characterized the Egyptian Revolution has now been replaced with a great social rift torn by political and ideological divisiveness, social breakdown and bouts of violence over the future identity of the Egyptian state.
Nonetheless, the current upheaval does not reflect a cultural inaptitude towards democracy, but rather a long and complex road toward indigenized Egyptian models of citizenship and democracy. The politicization of religious and secular identities and the polarization of sectarianism discredit democratic efforts and glosses over more critical issues of citizenship. Furthermore, this social and political divide masks the more vital task of national dialogue and reconciliation necessary to address the pressing social and economic challenges confronting all Egyptians. New visions of shared political and social spaces must come to the forefront where all citizens have the possibility to participate, and where the eighteen days exemplified by Tahrir Square becomes an Egyptian guide forward.
Consequently, in the aftermath of the ousting of former president Hosni Mubarak and subsequent turmoil in Egypt, what are the ways university students are perceiving and practicing citizenship, and to what extent are formal education institutions such as the university still relevant for the learning and development of new forms of citizenship?

The above research questions will guide a presentation whose purpose is to explore the literature and theories that inform a larger dissertation project on the emerging themes of youth citizenship in Egypt. Framed by a critical theory of Arab education perspective, the theoretical tensions within the sociology of citizenship, sociology of Arab youth, and citizenship education will be surveyed in this presentation. Arab youth are often dichotomously portrayed as secularists versus Islamists, or modern versus traditional, and the deficiency of democracy, modernity, and the development of western standards of citizenship that characterizes Egypt are explained by essentializing Arab culture as backward and rendering Islam monolithically autocratic. These interpretations of youth and citizenship habitually mask the multifaceted indigenized models of youth praxis of citizenship, thereby necessitating alternative perspectives of Arab youth and citizenship. Therefore, I will argue throughout this presentation that the amplification of narratives and experiences of Egyptian youth is crucial to problematize previous understanding of Arab youth and their commitments towards citizenship that have previously been connected to western views of modernity and democracy. The broad scope of this presentation is to build a theoretical framework essential to grasp the unexpected, unimagined, and multidimensional ways youth are perceiving and practicing citizenship for ‘bread, freedom, and social justice’ within the current social and political transition in Egypt.


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