Schooling the nation: education and everyday politics in revolutionary Egypt

Hania Sobhy

This book project, forthcoming with Cambridge University Press, investigates the transformations in the disciplinary and nation-building roles of schools in the context of disinvestment in education and increasing marketization, differentiation, and inequality. It weds political economy and anthropology of education approaches to study the everyday production of lived citizenship through disciplinary practices, as well as official discourses, rituals, and practices. It utilizes this approach to examine the official and lived projects of ‘schooling the nation’ in Egypt in the critical years before and after the 2011 uprising. Drawing on rare extensive research in schools with youth from different social classes and on analyses of school textbooks and nationalist rituals, it explores how schools reveal changing arrangements of power, legitimation, and contestation. It further dissects the gendered and classed constellations of violence, marketization, and noncompliance that structure relations in schools. It also maps the articulation of the critical years surrounding the 2011 ‘revolution’ in citizenship discourses and nationalist rituals in schools. As such, it addresses the idiosyncrasies of a ‘neoliberal’ project of citizenship and attempts at upgraded authoritarian legitimation as applied in the Egyptian case. It makes three sets of claims. First, it argues that these transformations in schools reflect a mix of laxity, violence, and marketization that I term ‘permissive-repressive neoliberalism’. Second, it dissects the failures of nation-building and the fragilities of regime legitimation that culminated in the uprising, and feed into patterns of further repression and permissiveness. Finally, it reflects on the varieties of ‘degraded citizenship’ produced by schools under these patterns of governance and legitimation.

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