Accepted Paper:

Aesthetics of Revolt in Tahrir Square  

Author:

Dalia Wahdan (Foundation for Liberal and Management Education)

Paper short abstract:

The eighteen days spent in Tahrir Square at the heart of Cairo, Egypt that started on January 25 have been exceptional to the minds and lives of most Egyptians. While indiscriminate violence and brutalities by the deposed regime’s security forces glued protesters together, singing, stand up comedies, chanting slogans and designing and circulating illustrative pamphlets have harnessed their energies and sustained their defiant spirits. As confrontations with security forces continued and intimidations from state-run radio and television increased, artistic forms in Tahrir Square have transcended their functionality and emerged from being the expressions of emotions into acts of revolt. This paper registers the versatile forms of expression improvised by the protestors in Tahrir Square and on social media sites during and after deposing Mubarak’s regime and argues that unlike the pre-uprising expressions of resentment and acts of resistance, Tahrir Square artistic expressions constitute an aesthetics of revolt the interpretation of which can forge an understanding of popular mass movements.

Paper long abstract:

This paper registers the versatile forms of expression improvised by the protestors in Tahrir Square and on social media sites during and after deposing Mubarak's regime and argues that unlike the pre-uprising expressions of resentment and acts of resistance, Tahrir Square artistic expressions constitute an aesthetics of revolt the interpretation of which can forge an understanding of popular mass movements. While many slogans expressed aspirations of social justice, freedom and dignity, other expressions throbbed with long suppressed frustrations and disappointments and still others were acts of willingness to end a life of misery. Many individuals and groups of protestors came forth with artistic expressions that have wittingly captured years of turmoil leading to the uprising while others have explicitly visualized their dreams of liberty and equity. Without rehearsals or draft sketches the final outcomes of many such expressions spoke up and to the millions and eventually developed into lists of demands and visions for the immediate future. By tracing such expressions especially those of individual activists or professional artists as well as those of others in and out of Tahrir, it becomes clearer that it is only a heuristic skit that one can actually separate the revolt from its aesthetics.

Panel P04
Beyond the Arab Spring: the aesthetics and poetics of popular revolt and protest