Accepted Paper:

"We're not as afraid anymore": fear, hope and uncertainty across two generations in Cairo  

Author:

Sara Lei Sparre (University of Copenhagen)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the role of fear, hope and uncertainty in the forms of thinking and political subjectivities of a particular group of young middle class Egyptians in relation to their parents’ generation.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores the role of fear, hope and uncertainty in the forms of thinking and political subjectivities of a particular group of young middle class Egyptians who are engaged in society through various religiously-motivated community service activities. I argue that their civic engagement reflects a 'fresh contact' (Mannheim 1952) with, and thus a reinterpretation of, experiences and feelings of fear, hope and uncertainty passed down from their parents.

The parents' formative years were during an earlier political rupture and thus a certain political subjectivity of fear was passed on to their children. In 1981, former president Sadat was assassinated by a militant Islamist, and Mubarak initiated a widespread crackdown on, and suspicion campaign against, all possible oppositional activists. Consequently, the older generation came to favor political stability over a quest for political influence and change, because it was equated with security and thus a prerequisite for realizing individual hopes and aspirations. For the young, in contrast, stability is seen as a continuation of hopelessness, injustice and insecurity, which is why they emphasize a broader social horizon and social engagement. It is a common assumption that Egypt's recent political rupture will lead to a new political subjectivity among the youth. This paper nuances this assumption by pointing to the importance of viewing the situation of youth after political rupture in the light of their situation before. Their political subjectivity is equally defined by the cultural material inherited from their parents as by whether they demonstrated at Tahrir Square or not.

Panel W059
Political ruptures and political subjectivities: how do young generations make sense of their world in a context of uncertainty?