Precarious Revolution: Labor and neo-liberal securitisation in Egypt

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Sociology, Egyptology & Anthropology Department

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Dina Makram-Ebeid

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Research Article

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Dialectical Anthropology/Springer

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The article draws on precarious workers’ engagement with the Egyptian revolution between 2011 and 2013. Despite their radical moves—reclaiming land previously appropriated by the state and staging various neighbourhood protests—the workers in this ethnography refused to associate with the revolution. Their curious position between radicality and dismissal of the revolution lays the groundwork to explore neoliberal securitisation. Although securitisation evolved globally alongside neoliberalism in order to facilitate accumulation by dispossession, the particular securitisation strategies used with disparate groups of workers, and their implication on the different ways workers make claims for a good life, still need further research. The article thus explores the class project of neoliberal securitisation. It argues that securitisation has generally been marginalised in studies of labour precarity, which have tended to point to the retrenchments of welfare benefits and insecurity under market conditions. By instead positing neoliberal securitisation as a class project, I show how the evolution of property relations is drawing new actors into the class struggle. The article thus re-centre class within the literature on labour precarity and the politics of security. Based on an ethnographic study in al-Tibbin, a town built around the largest and oldest steel factory in the south of Cairo, the article explores how the differential tactics used to securitise workers’ communities deeply impacted their repertoires of political action, becoming a catalyst for class struggle between various groups of workers. Securitisation thus co-constituted precarity by continuously drawing new subjects to the class struggle. Despite this, scholars and revolutionary actors have accorded more attention to the ‘spectacular’ resistance of organised workers in contrast to precarious workers’ ephemeral but influential engagements—a tendency that has been detrimental to the revolution’s trajectory.

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