Developing Diaspora Politics in the Egyptian Revolution … | Helen Underhill


Developing Diaspora Politics in the Egyptian Revolution: Learning about Democratic Transitions from the Praxis of Egypt’s Diaspora and Migrant Activists
The Arab Uprising: Researching the Revolutions, 22-23 September 2014. Conference held at the CBRL British Institute in Amman.
Abstract: This paper examines diaspora and migrant participation in the Egyptian uprisings of 2011 and the continuing struggle. I reflect on their praxis and development in relation to diaspora politics, activists’ political trajectories, and the notion of a ‘democratic transition’ in the Egyptian context.
I argue that analyses of activists’ learning, praxis and trajectories enable us to challenge the lack of understanding of how different transnational actors engage in politics in the contemporary global context (Adamson, 2005, Lyons and Mandaville, 2010). There has been very little academic study of the Egyptian diaspora in the UK (Karmi, 1997, IOM, 2010), but their participation in the 25th January revolution is evidenced within the academy, the blogosphere and film documentaries. This study contributes empirical evidence of the contributions of Egypt’s diaspora and migrant community in the UK to the revolution, highlighting their political learning and demonstrating the importance of hearing the range of voices that mobilise within and across these dynamic contemporary borders. Through the activists’ reflections, we see the transformative nature of mobilisation on diaspora politics. I conclude by noting the importance of empirical study of a contemporary context and new forms and spaces of activism, arguing more work is needed to understand diaspora politics within these dynamic spaces of resistance. Such analysis enables greater understanding of the various actors who mobilise in processes of revolutionary social change and their perspectives of engaging in a process of democratic transition.
Speaker biograpy: Helen Underhill is a PhD student at the Institute for Development Policy and Management (IDPM) at the University of Manchester. Her PhD explores social movement learning, diaspora politics and transnational activism in the context of the ongoing Egyptian revolution. Helen’s research and teaching experience includes: political theory, grassroots activism and social movements, the international poverty agenda and chronic poverty, and humanitarian emergencies.
Helen Underhill’s participation in the conference was sponsored by MBI Al Jaber Foundation.