The 25th of January 2011 marks an important date for Egypt and the world. Not only did former President Hosni Mubarak who has ruled Egypt for 30 years step down, but the youth who were once conceived as incapable of change were hailed as those who brought about this transformation. Yet how could the youth organize and bring about such a change that was not only unthinkable for many, but not one who took to the streets on the 25th imagined they could topple Hosni Mubarak in 18 short days. In this thesis I thus ask: 1) how have youth been deployed before and after the 25th of January Revolution as agents of change, 2) what kind of transformations are youth imagining for Egypt. Several events since the 1990s contributed to sharpening the youth consciousness culminating in taking the streets on January, 25th demanding â change, freedom, and social justice. I argue that, especially since the 1990s, a series of events and protests contributed to the formation of this generational consciousness which materialized on January 25th when thousands of mainly youth went on the streets to demand change. During the 1990s the adoption of neoliberal strategies pushed the state to minimize its role and promote civil society activities many of which focused on development. Many members of the organization were mainly focused on helping the poor (as a religious responsibility) without demanding social justice on challenging their own privileges. Secondly, a number of protests in the 2000 onwards were ushered by different protest movements such as Kefaya and the 6th of April youth movement. As national strategies failed to employ the majority of the youth, they became a burden on society. Not being able to afford a good education, employment, or marriage, Egyptian youth transformed from being the hope of the country in the 1950's to a serious social problem n the by the 1980's (Ibrahim, 2008). This affected youth's everyday interactions as they were financially dependent on their families, while their leisure time activities were seen as dangerous or morally corrupt potentially leading to criminal activities, drug abuse, and immorality. To channel particular categories of youth, NGOs offered the path of civic participation as a means to harness their energies toward development, while maintaining structurally the status quo of society, economy and polity. By taking the streets on January the 25th, Egyptian youth for a short period transformed from being the problem to being the hope of the country. Through the governance of Tahrir square, Egyptian youth proved their eagerness to change and with the ousting of Mubarak they were celebrated as heroes. Tahrir Square thus played a major role in reviving the youth and in transforming them from the problem to the hope of the country. Class, gender, and religion shaped the imagery of which young person can bring about change. A masculine, upper middle class man was mainly attached to the new young person that can change Egypt. However, now, a clash of generations is clearly taking place in which the emerging youth generation fights for political inclusion. Different events such as the protests on Mohamed Mahmoud Street (just off of Tahrir Square) and in front of the cabinet, or the parliamentary elections, are just some examples of power negotiations between the "old" and "new" generations. By developing a generational consciousness, there is hope that youth can bring about change, however, depending on their age, class, religion, and gender, their experiences differ giving them different outlooks on the future and also a potential source of division among this generation. My research project focused on youth who both demonstrated and protested during the Revolution and those who did not. In addition, I analyzed the national Al Ahram newspaper in the years 2000, 2004, 2008, 2010, and 2011and attended many public talks in order to unveil how youth were conceived as the problem before the Revolution and transformed into the hope of the country during the 18 days of the uprising. With a new generational consciousness, many young people are hopeful for a better future, however, their inexperience in politics makes it a difficult task to achieve.

Degree Name

MA in Sociology-Anthropology

Graduation Date


Submission Date

January 2012

First Advisor

Sabea, Hanan

Second Advisor

Rizzo, Helen



Document Type

Master's Thesis

Library of Congress Subject Heading 1

Egypt -- History -- Protests, 2011-

Library of Congress Subject Heading 2

Egypt -- Politics and government -- 21st century.


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Institutional Review Board (IRB) Approval

Not necessary for this item


It would not have been possible to write this thesis without the support of a great many people that I want to thank here. Firstly, I want to thank Dr. Han Sabea, who with her dedicated and rebellious persolity was always an inspiration. I am very grateful to the many discussions we had in class, at Tahrir during the Revolution, or at Dr. Sabea's place. In addition to Dr. Sabea's critical insights, her passion for the Revolution and change was always an inspiration to me to try more out than only writing this thesis which contributed to my persol activism. Filly, I am grateful to Dr. Sabea's enthusiasm to have worked with me on a topic related to the Revolution and to have alyzed events as they unfolded. After the outbreak of the Revolution, I decided to change my thesis topic and I am grateful that Dr. Sabea welcomed this idea and encouraged me to research and write on an unexplored topic. In addition to Dr. Sabea, I want to greatly thank Dr. Helen Rizzo, and Dr. Barbara Ibrahim for reviewing my thesis and giving me critical and insightful comments. The year had many ups and downs and the guidance and support of the whole committee was of utmost importance to finish writing my thesis. Therefore, I am very grateful to all of their support and having them work with me on a topic that is affected by the day-to-day events. I want to sincerely thank my father Anwar El- Sharnouby and my mother Angelika El- Sharnouby for their trust in me and support to change my topic to address the Revolution. I am more than thankful to their ongoing support during fieldwork and writing the thesis. The breakfast discussions with my father and the warmth and support of my mother have given me the strength to finish my thesis. In times of disappointments either because of sad unfolding events in Tahrir or in alyzing events, they always encouraged me to continue. I also want to thank them greatly for helping me find participants for my research and sharing their networks with me. Filly, I want to thank them sincerely for their encouragement to join the protests especially during the 18 days of the uprising. With their love and care, I could gain energy to fight for what I believe in. I want to further thank Saleha Osama Abdelkhaleq and Christine El Shammaa for editing my work on such short notice. Their flexibility and support was of utmost importance to hand in my thesis. I further want to thank Christine El Shammaa, Sandra Riad and Maggie Riad for helping me prepare for my defense and critically alyzing my proposal. I want to greatly thank all participants of this research. Without the willingness of them to do interviews with me I could have not done this research. I want to thank them for their time, opening up their feelings about important events, and sharing their thoughts. I have changed the mes of all participants in this research to keep the anonymity of their unique experiences. I also want to thank all of my friends and cousins who went with me to protests during the last years. I want to especially thank Ahmed El Safy, Ahmed bil Anwar, and Amir Fawzy for supporting me and taking care of me during the protests and sharing with me all difficult moments since we started demonstrating together. I further want to gratefully thank Christine El Shammaa for her sincerity and support during the protests. Her calls to check up on me and advise on ongoing events in Tahrir since the 25th of January as well as her care for me was indescribable. I further want to thank my cousins Mohamed Monier, Basant Monier, Heba Monier, and Noha El Sharnouby for joining the protests with me on the 28th of January. The rebellious spirit, that I did not encounter in the family before, were a great encouragement to continue the fight in what we believe in. I filly want to thank Emad Sayed Ahmed for the political discussions we had. His insights have been of great help to understand some key concepts more recently. It has also been very enlightening to read various articles he proposed to develop important ideas.