The Promise of the Revolution Four Years on: Egyptian Youth Working for the Butterfly Effect


This article explores the experience of being young, Egyptian, supportive of the 2011 revolution, and active in civil society in the post-revolutionary period in Cairo and Alexandria, looking into aspects of continuity and change that shape this experience. It draws on ve life histories and aims to understand the reasons behind youth’s engagement in the revolution beyond the framework of youth economic exclusion. e data was approached using a mixed theoretical framework, which encompasses youth- fulness (Bayat) and a heuristic, as opposed to analytic, use of social generations (Mannheim). e participants were invariably guided by a concern with everyday politics in their engagement with the revolution and the civil society. eir expectations of the revolution and visions of positive change are, however, very diverse. Socioeconomic exclusion does not appear as a driving force for their engagement in the revolution, showing it is not the universal fate of Egyptian youth but one shaped by class and physical location. In terms of continuity and change, the experience of being young and active in civil society in Egypt continues to be shaped by class, while a major change happened when the military took over the country in July 2013, spurring the critical participants to re-examine and sometimes tone down their engagement, experiencing a strong sense of exclusion. Another change that dates pre-rev- olution is the youth’s increased socio-political capital through aptitude in horizontal organizing, use of new technologies for activism, political reasoning beyond traditional ideological or societal divides, and propensity to criticize and speak back to power. e impacts of this change were still felt at the time of the interviews. 
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