Accepted Paper:

The Politics of Youth Citizenship: From Participation to Radicalisation -  


Solava Ibrahim (University of Cambridge/Anglia Ruskin University )

Paper short abstract:

How did the uprisings affect Egyptian youth? This paper tracks the aspirations and agency of urban youth in Cairo over ten years (2006-2016) and identifies four citizenship pathways they followed to address persisting inequalities: radicalisation, depoliticization, disengagement and pragmatism.

Paper long abstract:

How did Arab Spring affect agency and aspirations of Egyptian youth? Youth were not only the catalysts for these uprisings, but they were also its main victims. Stalled political transition and deepening economic crisis in Egypt has hit youth the most. In 2015, unemployment rates among educated youth reached 44%. Tracking the aspirations and wellbeing perceptions of urban youth over ten years (2006-2016), this paper argues that the Egyptian regime failed to address the structural causes for youth-related inequalities thus leading to the persistence of the same unfulfilled youth aspirations over time; especially in employment and education.

Through four case studies of urban young men in Manshiet Nasser, Cairo's largest informal settlement, the paper identifies four citizenship pathways youth have followed to address these growing frustrations and persistent inequalities: radicalisation, depoliticization, disengagement and pragmatism. Radicalisation mainly results from the exposure to police brutality and the failure to find adequate job opportunities, especially among educated youth. Depoliticization is common among the educated secular youth activists who participated in the uprisings but had to withdraw from public space because of growing state repression. Disengagement is a strategy mainly adopted by uneducated youth who suffered from growing inequalities in the city due the deteriorating economic conditions and rising costs of living. Finally, youth may also become 'pragmatic' by engaging in corrupt activities that will allow them to generate sufficient income to shorten their waithood period and fulfil their aspirations. The paper explores the implications of these pathways on youth agency and citizenship rights.

Panel L01
The dynamics of youth inequalities: aspirations, agency and multidimensional poverty (Paper)