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This chapter gives an overview of the book in how it deals with dignity in the 2011 Egyptian Revolution in the context of the Arab Uprisings. Dignity or karama in Arabic is a nebulous concept that challenges us to reflect about various issues such as identity, human rights, and faith. This chapter shows that the research to write this book was prompted by the complexity of dignity demands at a time when the region of North Africa and the Middle East was drifting in the socio-political event of the “Arab Spring” or Arab Uprisings. The main motivation in the research was to investigate understandings of karama in the specific context of Egypt during the 2011 protests. To do so, the focus was on interviews with participants in the 2011 protests and analysis of art forms that emerged during protests and in which there was an explicit expression of dignity/lack of dignity. The chapter presents the argument and contribution of the book, the importance of terminology and layers of meanings, and finally the wider context for dignity slogans. The chapter ends by presenting the book structure and the thematic chapters.
This chapter focuses on the theme of dignity as identity and particularly Arab identity. One of the important components in the construction of nationality is consolidating a sense of identity. Karama/dignity – in the sense of being an image of God with inherent worth – has supported for millennia a sense of identity for humans. In the discussion of karama as identity in the slogans of the 2011 Arab Uprisings in Egypt, the chapter shows that there is a widespread understanding of the lack of dignity in Arab contexts, mostly due to oppressive political regimes in a postcolonial setting, which can be seen through various expressions of karama as identity in arts and in the interviews. The chapter also highlights how identity politics are also essential to increasingly globalized societal contexts around the world.
This chapter focuses on the theme of dignity as a human right. There is first a brief general review of a few relevant philosophical debates about human dignity and human rights that are concerned with societal progress in the way karama as a human right, was sometimes interpreted by protesters. Then, the chapter moves on to a closer look at a postcolonial review of similar debates. After reviewing some relevant passages from interviews and other expressions of karama as a human right in Egypt, the chapter ends with an overall analysis of this specific theme in light of the material previously presented.
This chapter summarizes the overall structure of the book and reiterates how it deals with dignity in the 2011 Egyptian Revolution in the context of the Arab Uprisings. Overall, this concluding chapter looks at how the politics of dignity are used to uphold authoritarianism. This has been a blind spot in social and political theories whose authors and practitioners often speak from within a Western cultural framework that often does not understand the relevance of such politics in contexts like Egypt. The need to study karma is timely and the book brought some compelling conclusions for that end particularly regarding understanding dignity as a traumatic experience.
This chapter focuses on the theme of dignity as materialism. In this chapter, the relationship between materialism and dignity/karama suggested in the interviews and in some of the protesters’ demands during the 2011 uprisings in Egypt is first set in the context of the political and economic project of development in today’s modern and global societies. Then, the chapter provides a review of some of the critiques of this political and economic project of development in modern societies and in structural adjustments exposed in new models for socioeconomic progress, particularly to provide for an alternative to strict materialism. The chapter points to the context of a rise of human rights and human dignity discourses that support nonmaterial dimensions of wellbeing and confront it to the representations of karama related to materialism seen in the study. This rise has been seen not only in different societies but also in designing new development models that are precisely concerned with more egalitarian economic conditions for more social justice.
This chapter is not a thematic one, but a general review of the main findings from the different themes and an analysis of the suggested framing of “dignition,” which is a demand for dignity recognition. The chapter begins by showing the language dimension in articulating political demands to see how protesters may use a form of dignition at a particular time and for particular needs. The chapter presents the suggestion of dignition as one linked to dynamics of revolutionary change and populist demands. Then, the chapter looks at how discussions of identity in the Arab and Egyptian contexts have political drivers particularly in the processes of modernizing Arab states after the colonial period. This leads to emotional discussions of articulating the demand of dignity which reveals issues of identity for protesters. Lastly, the chapter exposes the dynamics of modernity and development in the context of accelerated globalization, which increase the precarity of dignity perceptions.
This chapter focuses on the theme of dignity as faith. First, the chapter attempts to clarify the use of the term “faith” as opposed to “religion.” The notion of dignity/karama is not just related to Islam, but also to a social condition that is embedded in one’s religious status and the accompanying process of socialization. The discussion of a human’s worth, central to understanding dignity/karama, is often related to religious studies. Given the broad context of this relationship, the focus here is to look only at the scholarship suggested from the interviews: notably dignity for Spinoza, for Pico della Mirandola, and for the secularists versus Islamists and in their debate with each other. The chapter gives milestones for the understanding of the discussion of karama and faith/religion in the interviews presented in this chapter.
Dignity, or karama in Arabic, is a nebulous concept that challenges us to reflect on issues such as identity, human rights, and faith. During the Arab uprisings of 2010 and 2011, Egyptians that participated in these uprisings frequently used the concept of dignity as a way to underscore their opposition to the Mubarak regime. Protesting against the indignity of the poverty, lack of freedom and social justice, the idea of karama gained salience in Egyptian cinema, popular literature, street art, music, social media and protest banners, slogans and literature. Based on interviews with participants in the 2011 protests and analysis of the art forms that emerged during protests, Zaynab El Bernoussi explores understandings of the concept of dignity, showing how protestors conceived of this concept in their organisation of protest and uprising, and their memories of karama in the aftermath of the protests, revisiting these claims in the years subsequent to the uprising.
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