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Frustrated Youth and Failed Democracy: The Dynamics of Wellbeing, Aspirations and Politics in Egypt

December 17, 2015 @ 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM

What is the impact of the Arab Spring on Egyptian citizens? How did the uprisings affect people’s aspirations and their relationship with the state? The literature on the Arab spring focuses mainly on the causes and dynamics of these uprisings and the roles that different groups (e.g. youth, women and workers), political organisations (e.g. the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis), state institutions (particularly the army) and social media played in them.

To date there have been very few grounded studies examining how political changes affect people’s wellbeing and aspirations. People’s voices are still missing! This research seeks to fill in this gap by exploring ‘how’ rapid political changes affected deprived communities in Egypt. Building on primary data collected through extensive fieldwork in 2006/7 and in 2015, this research tracks people’s wellbeing perceptions and aspirations in Egypt pre- and post- the Arab Spring uprisings. It articulates: (1) the main elements of a good life that people value, (2) their main problems and (3) their (unfulfilled) aspirations. The study contrasts voices in rural and urban contexts, namely in: (1) Manshiet Nasser (one of the largest slum areas in Cairo) and rural villages in Menia (one of the poorest governorates in Upper Egypt) thus presenting an inter-temporal and intra-case study analysis of political change in both settings and over time.

Theoretically, this research links the literature on wellbeing, aspirations and political change and explores the role of the state in fulfilling (or frustrating) people’s aspirations. Empirically, it builds on its unique dataset on people’s perceptions before the Arab Spring and is hence able to create a more dynamic picture of how wellbeing perceptions and aspirations change over time. Understanding these changes and tracking them is crucial to narrow down the gap between people’s aspirations and state policies; an essential step for future political stability.

Speaker: Dr Solava Ibrahim, Institute for Development Policy and Management, University of Manchester


Solava Ibrahim is Deputy Programme Director, Director of the MSc in Poverty, Inequality and Development and lecturer in International Development at the Institute for Development Policy and Management at the University of Manchester. She is also an affiliated lecturer at the Centre of Development Studies at the University of Cambridge. She was a research fellow in Global Poverty Reduction at the Brooks World Poverty Institute and the Chronic Poverty Research Centre at the University of Manchester and also worked as Assistant Professor of Political Science at the American University in Cairo. She holds a PhD and MPhil in Development Studies from Cambridge and an MA in Political Science and BA in International Relations from the American University in Cairo. In Egypt, she has previously worked for the United Nations Development Programme, Arab Women Organisation and Arab Reform Forum. Her main areas of specialisation are human development, poverty reduction, political transformation, gender, political Islam, governance and grassroots democracy in the Middle East. Her publications include her recent co-edited book The Capability Approach from Theory to Practice. She has also published articles in Third World Quarterly, Oxford Development Studies andJournal of Human Development and a book monograph entitled: ‘The Role of Local Councils in Empowerment and Poverty Reduction in Egypt’.

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