PhD Project

Contested Legitimacies


The Politics of Signification in Post-revolutionary Egypt


Starting from the puzzle of resilient protesters in the context of a reemergent securocratic state in Egypt, this project examines the issue of mobilization under authoritarian contraction. Its conceptual perspective is defined by the realization that processes of social mobilization are contingent on situational interaction between political contenders. This interaction takes place on the streets, where police forces shoot tear gas and demonstrators block road, and it takes place on a discursive level, where contenders articulate competing narratives about contentious events. I argue that the mobilizing success of movements as well as the creation of opportunities for collective action depends heavily on this discursive representation.

Accordingly, this project attempts to trace the unfolding waves of mobilization in post-revolutionary Egypt in their performative and in their discursive dimension: The aim is to identify the competing and discourses and meaning ascriptions that emerged and became sedimented after the fall of Husni Mubarak. It employs a nested research design which combines a quantitative tracing of contentious dynamics during through protest event data with qualitative analysis of the contested discourses on these dynamics.

Ultimately, this dissertation can thus be considered an attempt of mapping both the performative and the discursive arena of Egypt’s post-revolutionary contentious politics.

From the popular protests against the President Mursi in 2013, over the Islamist ‘Anticoup’ movement and the 2016 ‘island-protests’, to the labor protests which have recently reemerged across the country, I explore how discourses have been challenged, incorporated, modified and appropriated by different actors in a struggle for discoursive hegemony. By closely tracing the Egyptian protest dynamics with the proposed analytical focus, I hope to shed light on the impact of these shifts in the discursive architecture of contentious politics on the opportunities for both, contentious claim-making, and state repression.

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Cilja Harders

Second Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Carola Richter

Mentor: Prof. Dr. Donatella della Porta


“The ability of social movements to challenge to power structures hinges on their symbolic capacity to reverse meaning to demonstrate the arbitrariness of the power and its domination. And it is enough to structure reality using different words for the power monopoly over reality to crumble”

– Melucci, 1996

Coup against popular will.jpg

Upcoming presentations


Egypt is not for Sale! Cross-Movement Mobilization and Alliance Building in Egypt’s Tiran and Sanafir Island Protests

POMEPS Anual Conference, Washington DC, 2018

The Discoursive Conditions of Islamist Mobilization: The Muslim Brotherhood’s Struggle for ‘Legitimacy’ in Egypt

BRISMES Conference, London, 2018

The Discoursive Conditions of Backlash: Political Violence and Islamist Mobilization in Egypt after the Military Coup

— ECPR General Conference, Hamburg, 2018


The discoursive dimension of transformative events: integrating protest event analysis and discourse theory in a nested design

— ECPR General Conference, Hamburg, 2018

The limits of Coalition Building. Identity Constructions among Islamist Protesters in Egypt

— Colloquium Politics from Below, Berlin, 2018