Egyptian Civil Society and Political Education: Opportunities for Resilient Authoritarianism, or Prospects for a Radical Educational Movement?

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This thesis critically analyses the intimate relations between authoritarianism, political education and civil society resistance in post-uprisings Egypt. The thesis argues that education is political, and plays various political roles. This infers that education can constitute a vital component of a regime’s efforts to protect its legitimacy, as well as a method of challenging such efforts by developing people’s critical consciousness. By utilising a Gramscian framework, the thesis considers education and civil society to be terrains of hegemonic contestation between the Egyptian state and civil society organisations, whereby the opposition can develop counter-hegemonic struggles through political education and a plethora of alternative resistance practices. Empirically, the thesis explores the concept of political education in Egyptian civil society, considers the methods employed by the state to attempt to repress it, and analyses how civil society organisations (CSOs) seek to overcome these restrictions. Theoretically, it is interested in how Gramscian concepts can ‘travel’ to the Egyptian context, and additionally aid in understanding the nature of authoritarianism, and its resistance in post-uprisings Egypt. Fieldwork took place in Cairo in 2014, and involved semi-structured interviews, participant observations, and the analysis of secondary documents drawn from sixteen CSOs comprising political parties and movements, rights-based organisations and educational NGOs.
The thesis’ main arguments are as follows. Political education takes a variety of direct and indirect forms within Egyptian civil society. Direct political education explicitly teaches about politics, whereas indirect political education’s terminologies and content are covert but carry long-term political implications, as they are more likely to negotiate the terrain of hegemonic contestation in the post-uprisings context. This implies that the Egyptian state attempts to repress oppositional elements within civil society, and their educational activities, by employing violent (hard) and non-violent (soft) methods. As a result, CSOs adapt their aspects of resistance in order to function and survive under the current repressive context. These efforts to resist and build a counter-hegemony include CSOs superficially depoliticising their education, crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, and building alliances. Importantly, these acts of resistance, in addition to others, do not appear, in hindsight, to be explicitly oppositional or political, however, the thesis maintains that they must be understood in Gramscian terms. The findings imply that education should constitute a vital component of any discussion of social transformation and resistance in post-uprisings Egypt. Moreover, political education, as a concept, needs to be broadened to consider the variety of forms that it takes under authoritarian contexts. Consequently, when relating Gramscian theoretical frameworks to different world regions, it is essential that the local political, economic and socio-cultural contexts are considered. This makes it possible for such frameworks to travel and thus retain analytical vigour. Finally, despite the current authoritarian turn in Egypt, the state is still incapable of completely subduing civil society. This suggests that authoritarianism is never absolute, but is always being challenged through various methods that do not always adhere to those of contentious politics.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
Award date19 Sept 2017
Publication statusPublished - 21 Sept 2017


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