Revolutionary Youth Politics: From Seizing to Sharing Power
Dina El-Sharnouby, American University of Cairo (ACSS grantee)
Demonstrators in Cairo, taken on 26 December 2013 by Hossam el-Hamalawy.
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The uprisings in the Middle East and Africa since late 2010/early2011 featured remarkably horizontal mobilization strategies, contesting centralized forms of organization by separating the idea of mass mobilization from being led by one leading figure or one ideology.Their leaderless (or, perhaps more accurately, leaderful) and cross-ideological character opened questions about youth politics,social movements,and transformation processes. Researchers have typically approached these social movements through the literature on contentious politics,or in some case have examined the meaning of those revolts for a new conception of politics.Very few have attempted to analyze the horizontal movements in light of generation and youth studies, situating the young in their time and space for an understating of what constitutes youth politics today.Understanding youth politics through their horizontal mobilization strategies helps us to go beyond theories of contentious politics and repertoires of action. Instead, it allows scholars to address questions of time and temporality particularly among this generation of youth in an aim to understand what constitutes youth politics today. This paper draws on my current book project,which is based on intensive research done with Egyptian youth in a range of contexts: participant observation in the Egyptian uprisings in 2011; ethnographic field work with the leftist, youth-led Bread and Freedom party, in 2015; and interviews with political activists in diaspora in Berlin in 2018.This research shows that youth politics today is constituted on a conception of sharing power instead of seizing it. Such a conception requires a new type of thinking and practicing of revolutionary politics.
Situating youth in their historical context, paying attention to their particular ‘experiences of time’ and ‘horizons of expectations’, it becomes clear that the horizontal character of revolt suggests the rise of a new youth politics that is more inclusionary and revolves around the question of how to share political power.