Schooling the Nation: the privatized state, violence and degraded citizenship in Egypt

Hania Sobhy


Based on an immersed study of Egyptian schools from the late Mubarak era to the early Sisi years, this book manuscript examines the discourses and practices deployed to discipline citizenship and national belonging among youth. It investigates the official and lived projects of schooling the nation in Egypt in these critical years by approaching Egyptian secondary schools as disciplinary and nation-building institutions. Drawing on extensive research inside schools with young men and women from different social classes and analysis of school textbooks and nationalist rituals, the manuscript explores how schools reveal changing arrangements of power, legitimation and contestation.

By tracking the forms of privatization within the state bureaucracy and the mounting patterns of violence and de-institutionalization that accompany them, the book puts forward new analytical insights about the functioning of schools as disciplinary institutions. In exploring the role of schools as nation-building institutions, the book maps how the critical years surrounding the 2011 Revolution are articulated in official and everyday citizenship discourses and nationalist rituals. It presents vivid repertoires of experiencing the state, living citizenship and performing the nation in the critical years before and after the uprising. As such, it tells the background story of the uprising in terms of the relationship of the state with the educated classes and with young people in particular.

The book interrogates the role of schools in the fashioning of citizens in the context of disinvestment in education in a highly bifurcated neoliberal economy and in light of new rationalities of authoritarian legitimation in the age of new media. It makes three overarching sets of claims. The first explains the transformation of everyday relations in schools in terms of what I call repressive-permissive neoliberalism. The second set of claims situates the failures of nation building and the fragilities of regime legitimation in this critical historical juncture as manifested in official textbooks, school rituals and student discourses. The third set of claims reflects on the kind of citizen produced by schools under these patterns of governance and legitimation.

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