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A performative space: socio-spatial practices in Tahrir Square during the Egyptian Revolution of 2011

Abou El Fadl , Bassma (2014) A performative space: socio-spatial practices in Tahrir Square during the Egyptian Revolution of 2011. Advisor: Abdelmonem, Prof. Mohamed Gamal. pp. 364. [IMT PhD Thesis]

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The occupation of public squares during the Arab Spring in 2011 across the Middle East and North Africa have revealed new layers of complex practices of liberation used to counter the strategies of the regime’s security apparatus. There emerged a need to critically detect and analyse the spatial practices of the liberated spaces as forms of sustained resistance that facilitated political gains. During the 18 days of the Egyptian Revolution of 2011, public space, long neglected, again became a political domain that witnessed unusual spatial practices and a contested terrain for society, in sum, a space for protest and resistance for the entire population of Cairo. This research shall focus on Tahrir Square in Cairo as ‘space of politics’ during the eighteen days long Egyptian Revolution, i.e., from Jan 25 till Feb 11 2011. The aim of the research is to investigate how socio-spatial practices transformed public space from being a congested traffic hub into an active and animated space for resistance that was equally accessible to different factions, social strata, media outlets, and urban social groupings, as determined by popular cultures and social responsibilities. It advances our knowledge on the way social movements manipulate, manage and occupy vast urban spaces with great flexibility and autonomous spatial tactics. Tahrir Square was reproduced, in a process of “space adaptation,”1 to accommodate forms of social organization and administration. This adaptation of space embedded spatial patterns of activities and practices from the earliest days, all of which shall be described and classified by the research through a frame structure. This research investigates the physical appearance of democratic performance in public space through acts of resistance over a delineated space from three-years of socio-spatial fieldwork and spatio-political research. The thesis employs an inter-disciplinary case study methodology comprising of two phases – descriptive explanatory and exploratory – to investigate the change in socio-spatial practices and dynamics of urban space. In this research, an interactive representation of narratives will be presented in order to address the complexity of the problem, i.e., the integration of architectural, social, political, historical, and spatial materials to construct a multi-layered analysis and significant account. Diverse research methods are utilized, such as: the collection of historical background data of space, contemporary reports, unstructured interviews with 50 involved actors, documented narratives, and direct observations. Through undertaking analytical surveys and decoding of information of the events, a systematic classification of socio-spatial patterns and distribution of activities of daily intervals through the five main themes was generated. This research presents a matrix of analytical maps tracing the five main themes: hospitalization and emergency support, living and life needs supplies, media and news display, prayers and ritual practices, and art and freedom of expression. This matrix is a tool with which to display conflict over space, and explicitly, how Tahrir Square was re-conceptualized. In doing so, this thesis deploys innovative ways to highlight social practices that spatially occupied a significant part of downtown Cairo and how changes occurred over the time. Studying the evidence of each theme separately, the dynamics and changing location of activities and rational processes of management can be systematically analyzed and the complexity of the performative space understood. The physical space, hence, became a socio-spatial sphere that is adjustable, flexible domain of human praxis rather than a rigid physical container of human actors. Thus, this approach proposes a new perspective for looking at the recent uprisings and revolts in public squares through tracing their dynamics and socio-spatial practices. This can be useful in understanding similar cases of uprisings and suggests the value of further research into the process of re-conceptualization of public space. The research presented here, and it is supporting methodology, developed as a way to capture the values and capacities that are in play during such particular ‘spatial of revolt’. The thesis is a valuable addition to literature on the understanding of qualities of, human interaction with urban spaces, and their political role in the contemporary city. It has potential application for activists, public space occupiers, planners, architects, anthropologists, theorists and dictators or governments seeking to control urban unrest.

Item Type: IMT PhD Thesis
Subjects: N Fine Arts > NX Arts in general
PhD Course: Management and Development of Cultural Heritage
Identification Number: 10.6092/imtlucca/e-theses/152
NBN Number: urn:nbn:it:imtlucca-27183
Date Deposited: 16 Jan 2015 10:43
URI: http://e-theses.imtlucca.it/id/eprint/152

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