An opening of Tanwir

Patel, R
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Experiments with political liberation and democratisation took place during the 1980s in the Middle East. However, the movement towards significant democratic change was not completed and authoritarian rule continued throughout the region. Now we are witnessing overt dissatisfaction with several authoritarian regimes across the Middle East. Prompted by Tunisia’s successful revolution in January 2011, Cairo's citizens began an occupation of Tahrir Square on Tuesday 25 January 2011, the Day of Revolt, to protest against President Mubarak's rule. Protestors placed themselves at a frontier where democratic rights and space were to be fought for. Prior to the protests, Tahrir Square had been closed off by the government for many years, arguably to prevent precisely such public assemblies and to hold the public at the edge of democracy. I will present an argument that the 2011 Revolt in Egypt created a moment of enlightenment, tanwir , despite the Egyptian Government’s assertion in the 1990s that it was an enlightened government. The enlightenment of the 2011 revolt was not one based on Western cultural meta-narratives of universal and rational knowledge, but as Michel Foucault would suggest, enlightenment based on transforming critique into a form of transgression - a rupture. This rupture, a force formed by the will and actions of protestors to redistribute power, reconfigured boundaries according to new rules of knowledge and truth and presented a "kind of moral energy, wholly remarkable". This paper will also discuss how the rupturing allowed the public to reclaim Tahrir Square and opened it up as an agora - a democratic public outdoor room where bodies gather, debate, and collectively share opinions, how the boundary of exclusion was removed, and the occupation of Tahrir Square saw a new internal borderland established.

Interstices, vol.12 (Unsettled Containers), pp.114-119
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