Civil and the limits of politics in revolutionary Egypt

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© 2015 by Duke University Press. Based on analysis of scholarly and primary sources that include July 2011 and January and February 2014 fieldwork in Cairo, this article examines civil as a word with multiple synchronic meanings and shifts in valence in Egypt between January 2011 and July 2013. I argue that civil stood as a rhetorical placeholder in a time with few secure ideological positions, little agreement about the content of the good society, and wide recognition of the enormity of obstacles to transformation. The article draws on Jacques Rancière’s understandings of “politics” and “police” to examine sensibilities and relations of transgression and control that work on and through bodies, intimacies, and meanings of the civil. Among the essential lessons of the 2011 Arab revolutions is that ideological differences and material inequalities do not easily melt, even in emergent, pluralistic, and nondoctrinaire revolutionary politics, because it is difficult to erase positional and embodied differences in the scenes where politics are made.





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Hasso, FS (2015). Civil and the limits of politics in revolutionary Egypt. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, 35(3). pp. 605–621. 10.1215/1089201X-3426445 Retrieved from

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Frances S. Hasso

Professor of Gender, Sexuality & Feminist Studies

I am a Professor in the Program in Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies at Duke University with secondary appointments in the Department of History and Department of Sociology.  I taught in and directed the International Comparative Studies Program at Duke from 2010-2015 and was a member of the Oberlin College faculty from 2000-2010. I am Editor Emerita (2015-2018) of the Journal of Middle East Women's Studies. I have been a National Humanities Center fellow, an ACOR fellow, a Rockefeller fellow, and an SSRC/ACLS fellow. My research has additionally been supported by the National Science Foundation, American Sociological Association, Woodrow Wilson National National Fellowship Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Palestinian American Research Center, the Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World (Leiden), The Josiah Charles Trent Memorial Foundation Endowment, and Duke Arts & Sciences Faculty Committee Research Grants. My latest book, Buried in the Red Dirt: Race, Reproduction and Death in Modern Palestine, is released from Cambridge University Press as a Creative Commons Open Access monograph. Many of my publications are accessible open access through my personal website I can be reached at

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