Socioeconomic Protests and Political Transformation: Dynamics of Contentious Politics in Egypt and Tunisia Against the Background of South American Experiences

Socio­economic grievances were among the major forces driving the revo­lutions in Egypt and Tunisia. Since the ousting of the dictators, however, political debates have focused on political institutions, questions of identity and civil-military relations even though both countries continue to contend with socio­economic protests. This project analyzed the neglected socio­economic dimension of the ongoing trans­formation process in Egypt and Tunisia. It studied the dynamics of conten­tious politics, i.e., the interaction of protest groups and political actors, in this issue area. A focused analysis of South American countries and their diverse expe­riences in dealing with political change and socio­economic contention has served to inform and orient the in-depth analysis of the Arab cases.

Building on compa­rative research on political trans­formation processes and the theo­retical framework of conten­tious politics deve­loped by Charles Tilly, Sidney Tarrow and colleagues, the research team consisting of Middle East and Latin American experts from Egypt, Germany and Tunisia analyzed to what extent and how socio­economic contention shapes the ongoing process of political trans­formation in Egypt and Tunisia.

In order to answer this research question, the project has:

  1. empirically assessed socio­economic protests since the fall of Ben Ali and Mubarak, including the issues being contested and the actors involved;
  2. analyzed political reactions to socio­economic contention, including the ways in which regimes deal with contentious actors and modify their economic policies;
  3. studied the resulting dynamics of contentious politics – i.e., the patterns of inter­action between the state and contentious actors;
  4. identified the effects of socio­economic contention on the overall process of political trans­formation, focusing specifi­cally on the impli­cations for political partici­pation and institu­tional repre­sentation as well as on effects in terms of political respon­sive­ness and social justice.


In each step of the research process the project has syste­matized South American experi­ences (based on secon­dary literature), conducted in-depth studies on the contem­porary situation in Egypt and Tunisia (based on original research), compared the two Arab cases, and has drawn general conclu­sions from the inter-regional comparison. Finally, the project also iden­tified future scenarios for Egypt and Tunisia and deve­loped policy recom­menda­tions regarding not only social and political actors in the two countries but also external actors, and presented in detail how they could contribute to building an inclusive and peaceful order in Egypt and Tunisia.

The project (2014-2018) was conducted in co­operation with Dr. Amr El Shobaki, Dr. Nadine Abdalla and Nayera Abdel Rahman of the Arab Forum for Alter­natives in Egypt and Dr. Amor Boubakri, Dr. Bassem Karray and Samiha Hamdi of Sfax University in Tunisia and was funded by the Volks­wagen Foundation. The results of the project have been published in the edited volume „Socio­economic Protests in MENA and Latin America. Egypt and Tunisia in Inter­regional Comparison" with Palgrave Macmillan.

 

As a follow-up project, the Volks­wagen Foun­dation is funding Struggles over Socio­­economic Reforms: Political Con­flict and Social Conten­­tion in Egypt and Tunisia post 2011 in Inter­­regional Compa­rison for three years (2018–2021).

Employees:
  • Vatthauer, Jan-Philipp
1
Socioeconomic Protests in MENA and Latin America | 2020

Weipert-Fenner, Irene/Wolff, Jonas (eds), (2020): Socioeconomic Protests in MENA and Latin America. Egypt and Tunisia in Interregional Comparison, Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-030-19621-9.

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2
Socioeconomic Protests in Times of Political Change—Studying Egypt and Tunisia from a Comparative Perspective | 2019

Weipert-Fenner, Irene/Wolff, Jonas (2019): Socioeconomic Protests in Times of Political Change—Studying Egypt and Tunisia from a Comparative Perspective. Introduction, in: Weipert-Fenner, Irene/Wolff, Jonas (eds), Socioeconomic Protests in MENA and Latin America. Egypt and Tunisia in Interregional Comparison, Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 1-40.

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3
From North Africa to Latin America and Back | 2019

Weipert-Fenner, Irene/Wolff, Jonas (2019): From North Africa to Latin America and Back. Comparative Findings and Theoretical Reflections, in: Weipert-Fenner, Irene/Wolff, Jonas (eds), Socioeconomic Protests in MENA and Latin America. Egypt and Tunisia in Interregional Comparison, Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 251-274.

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4
Unemployed Protests in Tunisia | 2019

Hamdi, Samiha/Weipert-Fenner, Irene (2019): Unemployed Protests in Tunisia. Between Grassroots Activism and Formal Organization, in: Weipert-Fenner, Irene/Wolff, Jonas (eds), Socioeconomic Protests in MENA and Latin America. Egypt and Tunisia in Interregional Comparison, Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 195-219.

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5
Unemployed mobilisation in times of Democratisation | 2018

Weipert-Fenner, Irene (2018): Unemployed mobilisation in times of Democratisation. The Union of Unemployed Graduates in post-Ben Ali Tunisia, in: The Journal of North African Studies, DOI: 10.1080/13629387.2018.1535317.

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6
Blurred Lines of Inclusion and Exclusion. Research Ethics for Political Sympathizers | 2018

Weipert-Fenner, Irene (2018): Blurred Lines of Inclusion and Exclusion. Research Ethics for Political Sympathizers, in: Clark, Janine A./Cavatorta, Francesco (eds), Political Science Research in the Middle East and North Africa: Methodological and Ethical Challenges, (Vol. Oxford University Press), Oxford, New York, 233-241.

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7
Clientelism and Patronage in the Middle East and North Africa. Networks of Dependency | 2018

Ruiz de Elvira, Laura/Schwarz, Christoph H./Weipert-Fenner, Irene (eds), (2018): Clientelism and Patronage in the Middle East and North Africa. Networks of Dependency, Abington, UK and New York, NY: Routledge, https://www.routledge.com/(...).

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Introduction: Networks of Dependency, a Research Perspective | 2018

Ruiz de Elvira, Laura/Schwarz, Christoph H./Weipert-Fenner, Irene (2018): Introduction: Networks of Dependency, a Research Perspective, Clientelism and Patronage in the Middle East and North Africa. Networks of Dependency, Abington, UK and New York, NY: Routledge, https://www.routledge.com/(...).

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9
Mobilization of the Marginalized: Unemployment Activism in Tunisia | 2017

Hamdi, Samiha/Weipert-Fenner, Irene (2017): Mobilization of the Marginalized: Unemployment Activism in Tunisia, American University of Beirut: Isaam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, Working Paper 43, http://website.aub.edu.lb/(...).

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10
Stabilisierung durch Freihandel? | 2017

Schröder, Jonas/Weipert-Fenner, Irene (2017): Stabilisierung durch Freihandel? Die Europäische Nachbarschaftspolitik und ihre Folgen für den sozialen Frieden in Tunesien, PRIF Spotlight 3/2017, Frankfurt/M.

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11
Tunisia’s struggle against corruption: time to fight, not forgive | 2017

Salehi, Mariam/Weipert-Fenner, Irene (2017): Tunisia’s struggle against corruption: time to fight, not forgive, openDemocracy, 16.5.2017.

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12
The Quest for Social Justice in Tunisia. Socioeconomic protest and political democratization post 2011 | 2017

Vatthauer, Jan-Philipp/Weipert-Fenner, Irene (2017): The Quest for Social Justice in Tunisia. Socioeconomic protest and political democratization post 2011, PRIF Report No. 143, Frankfurt/M.

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13
Die soziale Frage in Tunesien | 2017

Vatthauer, Jan-Philipp/Weipert-Fenner, Irene (2017): Die soziale Frage in Tunesien. Sozioökonomische Proteste und politische Demokratisierung nach 2011, HSFK-Report Nr. 3/2017, Frankfurt/M.

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14
Egyptian parliamentary elections and the political path, AFA Papers Alternatives | 2017

Arab Forum for Alternatives (2017): Egyptian parliamentary elections and the political path, AFA Papers Alternatives, (Arabic Version on the AFA Website).

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15
Repertoires of Counter-Contention. | 2016

Weipert-Fenner, Irene/Wolff, Jonas (2016): Repertoires of Counter-Contention. Conceptualizing institutional responses to social movements, Bretterblog, 26.10.2016.

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16
Unemployed Movements in the Global South | 2016

Weipert-Fenner, Irene/Wolff, Jonas (2016): Unemployed Movements in the Global South. The cases of Argentina and Tunisia, PRIF Working Papers No. 32, Frankfurt/M.

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17
From Driver of Change to Marginalized Actor: Egypt’s New Unionism from a Comparative Perspective | 2016

Abdalla, Nadine/Wolff, Jonas (2016): From Driver of Change to Marginalized Actor: Egypt’s New Unionism from a Comparative Perspective, PRIF Working Papers No. 31, Frankfurt/M.

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18
Socioeconomic contention and post-revolutionary political change in Egypt and Tunisia | 2015

Weipert-Fenner, Irene/Wolff, Jonas (2015): Socioeconomic contention and post-revolutionary political change in Egypt and Tunisia. A research agenda, PRIF Working Papers No. 24, Frankfurt/M.

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19
Making the Crisis Visible | 2015

Weipert-Fenner, Irene (2015): Making the Crisis Visible. A Reassessment of the Parliament in the Mubarak Regime, in: Sadiki, Larbi (ed.), Routledge Handbook of the Arab Spring. Rethinking Democratization, London/New York, 215-227.

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20
Die offene soziale Frage und der politische Transformationsprozess in Ägypten | 2014

Weipert-Fenner, Irene (2014): Die offene soziale Frage und der politische Transformationsprozess in Ägypten, in: Tamer, George/Röbbelen, Hanna/Lintl, Peter (Hg.), Arabischer Aufbruch. Interdisziplinäre Studien zur Einordnung eines zeitgeschichtlichen Phänomens, Baden-Baden: Nomos, 263-292.

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21
Conflict Mediation in the Middle East | 2014

Johannsen, Margret/Weidlich, Christian/Eikenberg, Felix/Finaud, Marc/Galal, Mohamed Noman/Hückmann, Jan/Kurz, Anat/Weipert-Fenner, Irene (2014): Conflict Mediation in the Middle East. Lessons from Egypt as a Mediator and Object of Mediation, in: Policy Brief for the Middle East Conference on a WMD/DV Free Zone No. 36, http://academicpeaceorchestra.com/download.php?downloadid=90.

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22
Der autoritäre Sicherheitsapparat und der Kampf gegen den "islamistischen Terror" | 2014

Weipert-Fenner, Irene (2014): Der autoritäre Sicherheitsapparat und der Kampf gegen den "islamistischen Terror". Politische Gewalt in Ägypten seit 2011, in: Werkner, Ines-Jacqueline/Kursawe, Janet/Johannsen, Margret/Schoch, Bruno/von Boemcken, Marc (Hg.), Friedensgutachten 2014, Münster: LIT, 169-179, https://www.friedensgutachten.de/archiv.

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23
Neue Akteure, neue Prozesse - alles beim Alten? | 2014

Weipert-Fenner, Irene (2014): Neue Akteure, neue Prozesse - alles beim Alten? Über den schwierigen Umgang mit der Ambivalenz der arabischen Transformationsprozesse, in: Politische Vierteljahresschrift, 55:1, 145-167.

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Partners

Arab Forum for Alternatives, Egypt
Arab Forum for Alternatives, Egypt
www.afaegypt.org/English/
University of Sfax, Tunesia
University of Sfax, Tunesia
www.uss.rnu.tn

Donors

VolkswagenStiftung
VolkswagenStiftung
www.volkswagenstiftung.de/en