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Pinilla, Marta Agosti (2019) The Female Protestor : Sexual violence and the making and unmaking of the state in Egypt post January 25, 2011. PhD thesis. SOAS, University of London. DOI:

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Secular feminist activists have been the focus of previous research in Egypt. Yet the link of this constituency to the historical event that propelled its emergence has received little attention. Moreover, the specific significance of the female protestor and the gendered dimension of protests, have often been left unexplored. ‘Tahrir Square’ epitomises the critical event that prompted a third generation of feminist and human rights activists to join citizens in the streets to claim a new social contract. However, sexual violence episodes became a routine experience for female protestors, gradually intensifying in frequency and violence. This thesis engages with young urban secular activists, female and male, who joined street initiatives, NGO campaigns, and social movements more generally, to combat sexual violence during the Egyptian Revolution that started in January 2011. As the prevalence of sexual violence in many different forms (sexual harassment, rape, domestic violence, intimate partner violence, etc.) was very persistent and widespread prior to 2011, some initiatives to fight it already existed. Yet, the revolution was a milestone after which these interventions developed and evolved against the state or standing in for it. These interventions were part and parcel of the revolutionary action that questioned the state and fought against disciplinary and regulatory techniques of ‘governmentality’ (Foucault 1991). In this context, the female protestor came to be a highly controversial subject that tested the limits of the state and revolutionaries alike. Hence, the female protestor came to signify the central role of gender in the political process, in such a way as to debunk arguments based on cultural explanations for the prevalence of gender-based violence in society. This thesis argues that the female protestor is a focus of political violence whose experiences illuminate the matrix that sustains and normalises sexual violence in a society. This, in turn, allows us to connect female body politics with broader socio-economic and political conflicts. Drawing upon fieldwork conducted for two years among groups of young, secular, feminist and human-rights activists, this thesis aims to answer how women’s bodies interrelated with other social forces to effectively bring down the regime. It also addresses women’s interplay with its reconstitution after June 30, 2013. Thus, this thesis engages with female body politics to contribute to the literature on urban youth, nationalism, social movements and gender.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Christopher Davis and Marloes Janson
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 12 May 2020 13:21

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