The Material Frame
The Material Frame
This chapter discusses the material frame of Tahrir Square. As a space, it has been shaped by the political-economic policies of the past four decades, which essentially turned it into an antihuman space, nominally suitable only as a “nonplace” that people passed through. A liberalized economy under the umbrella of a state that systematically redistributed income upward shaped demands for “bread, freedom, and social justice” as surely as it walled off Bulaq from communication with its urban surroundings, segregated Garden City to protect the imperial agents of the “Washington consensus,” and prepared downtown for private redevelopment. The causes of the revolution were inscribed in the urban fabric of its primary theater. It should be emphasized that the revolution-era character of Tahrir Square is incomprehensible without linking it to the growth of the formal parts of the expanding city, specifically the suburbs and their gated communities. But it is equally incomprehensible without similarly linking it to the even more significant growth of the informal parts of the city, and indeed the more general character of informality in many spheres of life, most significantly labor, which was systematically made precarious by the same design that poured resources into the new cities and slated Bulaq for extinction. However, the quotidian antihuman Tahrir Square depicted in the chapter has greater depth as a performance space than one might think.
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