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Prefiguring the Revolution: The Politics of Law and Lawyering in Egypt

Afshary, Mohammad (2018) Prefiguring the Revolution: The Politics of Law and Lawyering in Egypt. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (Access to this publication is currently restricted. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:72401)

Language: English

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Egypt's 2011 uprising was notable for two significant, seemingly contradictory features. It was understood by most participants as 'revolution', yet, many of its diverse visions of change and forms of mobilisation were marked by language of law and ideas of legality. This juridified praxis of revolution led many observers to conclude that it was lacking in radical visions and other quintessential revolutionary elements. Against such conclusions which draw on prevalent ideas of revolution to dismiss the Egyptian case out of hand, this thesis seeks to focus further on the Egyptian revolution as an important case study for examining the implications of when law and revolution come together. In a context in which law is envisioned as a means and a domain of revolutionary struggle, the thesis asks, what are the implications of when legal processes and spaces are engaged with and reimagined by participants who act according not to dominant legal culture but their revolutionary visions and utopian sense of possibility.

I take as the starting point of analysis, not the established (Western) concept of revolution often 'applied' when studying new revolutions, but the praxis of revolution in Egypt and its important political history. I do so while emphasising the performative character of revolution as a concept, and what is at stake politically in the different ways it is imagined and enacted. Examining the praxis of revolution in Egypt, it will be suggested that there was a palpable focus on processes of collective actions in the here-and-now, with an emphasis on prefiguring radically different forms of social relations and political culture. Taking this into account, the thesis studies the juridified praxis of revolution on the basis of its broadly shared utopian vision and prefigurative method to argue that this could help better understand the Egyptian revolution and the politics of law therein. In doing so, the thesis focuses on the role of activist lawyers as an important part of the Egyptian revolution and on their struggle against the regime's counter-revolutionary forms of legal intimidation. Examining, through interviews and observations, some of the everyday as well as broader aspects of their work, I will suggest that it can be understood as prefigurative legal praxis. Inspired by the visions of the revolution, theirs is a process-oriented form of legal support driven by an emphasis on solidarity and continuity in the here-and-now. At the same time, it is a utopian form of legal practice which, while aware of its grounded experience of the legal system to the contrary, insists on reimagining and acting prefiguratively within legal-institutional processes and spaces as if they were otherwise. Ultimately, the thesis concludes that studying the praxis of activist lawyers and the broader juridification of revolution in Egypt from the perspective of their utopian-prefigurative features could provide a necessary addition to the current scholarship on law and revolution in general and activist lawyers in particular.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Cooper, Davina
Thesis advisor: Bedford, Kate
Thesis advisor: Alessandrini, Donatella
Uncontrolled keywords: Revolution Juridification Law and Revolution Egypt Prefigurative Politics Utopianism Activist Lawyering The Everyday
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > Kent Law School
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 12 Feb 2019 14:10 UTC
Last Modified: 02 Aug 2021 13:09 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Afshary, Mohammad.

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