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Martyrs and TrickstersAn Ethnography of the Egyptian Revolution$
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Walter Armbrust

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780691162645

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691162645.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM PRINCETON SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.princeton.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Princeton University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in PRSO for personal use.date: 28 May 2022

The Poor First

The Poor First

(p.124) Chapter 6 The Poor First
Martyrs and Tricksters

Walter Armbrust

Princeton University Press

This chapter focuses on an influential post in June of 2011 by a blogger named Muhammad Abu al-Ghayt. Abu al-Ghayt's post frames class by reference to ʻashwa'iyyat, literally “haphazard” neighborhoods, meaning specifically the informal neighborhoods that were mentioned in the previous chapter as the social location of a substantial number of the fighters in street battles. In the imaginary of elites, many members of the middle class, and more than a few media professionals ʻashwa'iyyat are discursively marginal, or even liminal in the sense that they are often depicted as a morally compromised urban instantiation of precarious lives—morally compromised because of the alleged social pathologies that go with precarity, such as drug abuse, crime, and fanaticism. That sense of precarity, moreover, is an effect of the neoliberal ideology that formed the economic and social conditions of the revolution. Abu al-Ghayt never uses the term “neoliberal,” but the ʻashwa'iyyat were as much a product of it as the luxury housing developments that absorbed so much of the state's resources for the benefit of elites. Both the discursive sense of ʻashwa'iyyat as the urban expression of precarity and its associated pathologies, and the neoliberal order that structured poverty and wealth in the decades leading up to the revolution, are implicitly invoked by Abu al-Ghayt in his blog.

Keywords:   Muhammad Abu al-Ghayt, ʻashwa'iyyat, informal neighborhoods, street battles, precarity, neoliberal ideology, revolution, poverty

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