Egyptian rural markets as a new space of everyday resistance: Towards a rural social non-movement

15 Marzo 2018
Paper

How do state interventions to organize markets as a rural public sphere affect the transformation of rural non movements in Egypt?

Egyptian society witnessed a semi-ideal political practice during the 25 January peaceful revolution. A few months later, many authoritative populist behaviours were apparently adopted by several political actors through their conflict on sharing authority, which finally led to the 3rd of July regime, whose elite adopted a high populist political discourse, that securitised many critical issues under the umbrella of war on terrorism. In such a closed public sphere, institutional political practice is expected to be very weak, and also the direct explicit resistance (demonstrations, rebellions ...), so new mechanisms of hidden/indirect resistance are necessary for achieving little political change, especially in unbeaten/neglected tracks in rural world.

This paper focuses on the emerging of rural social non movements in Egypt, by studying rural popular markets as a new space of everyday resistance, and as a different area to study the rural public sphere, taking in consideration the historical dimension of markets in the Arabic-Islamic civilization, where it wasn't just a trade area but a social, political and cultural arena. In spite of the Egyptian accelerated social mobility in the last decade, the Egyptian political system is still a competitive authoritarian (hybrid) regime. So it offers different contexts to social mobility depending on the level of democracy versus authoritarianism, which leads to several combinations of social movements and non movements according to the interactions between the state and society. Then, studying rural markets as a space of economic, political, social and cultural negotiations and interactions may tell us a lot more.

The basic research question of this paper is to know how the state intervention to organize markets as a rural public sphere may affect the transformation of rural non movements into movements (if state policies were emancipatory), or leads to the withdrawal of these non movements to more hidden resistance behaviors in everyday life (if state policies were regressive). In other words, this paper tries to know how the Egyptian rural periodical markets (as a space of negotiation that connects rural and urban worlds) can enable local societies to reallocate values, achieve more independence in front of the Egyptian neoliberal policies, and decrease the socioeconomic consequences of many national economic crises on rural world.

Finally, from a critical point of view, achieving emancipation for individuals and societies isn't isolated from the question of change towards justice, so the grand aim of this paper is understanding the participant role of rural markets in achieving a level of social change towards a more equitable and fairer society in the future, which is intertwined with analyzing the historical and current status of this phenomenon.

This paper was presented at the Emancipatory Rural Politics Initiative (ERPI) 2018 Conference: "Authoritarian Populism and the Rural World"