Affective Politics in the new Egypt

How do people sense and express the post-Arab spring? The new researcher with the NAI Conflict Cluster, Maria Malmström, suggests that a comprehensive understanding of contemporary North African politics needs to include people’s emotions. During her earlier research in Egypt, people she spoke to felt that doomsday was approaching. They often described the suffering Egyptians faced because of Mubarak’s policies. People reacted with anger and dissatisfaction at the state’s weakness towards the "Western world" and its economic mismanagement. The Iraq war highlighted these feelings and nourished emotions of fear and a sense of hopelessness. Deteriorating living conditions, together with the region´s instability, contributed to a loss of control that found expression in aggression, frustration and anxiety. Lack of hope and fear were dominant emotions among people.

After the Egyptian uprising a year ago, these sentiments had been transformed into hope and lack of fear.

− Today, after 100 days under the new president Morsi, one of these feelings has begun to change. There is still a general lack of fear, but also a growing crack in the feeling of hope. And there is a new sentiment. The feeling of confusion, says Maria Malmström.

Malmström perceives Egyptians’ lack of fear as the most significant outcome of the Egyptian uprising in 2011. People are no longer afraid to act politically in relation to the current regime and the military, regardless of how these forces might respond. The increasing sense of confusion may be used in a transition period as something both powerful and fruitful − as a creative tool for building the new Egypt.

− But it can also turn into something that I see as the biggest threat today for Egypt’s future. Egyptians totally lose hope again and perceive tomorrow as pitch black, says Maria Malmström.

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