"Today I Have Seen Angels in Shape of Humans:" an Emotional History of the Egyptian Revolution through the Narratives of Female Personal Bloggers

By Galan, Susana | Journal of International Women's Studies, October 2012 | Go to article overview

"Today I Have Seen Angels in Shape of Humans:" an Emotional History of the Egyptian Revolution through the Narratives of Female Personal Bloggers


Galan, Susana, Journal of International Women's Studies


Abstract

This article examines the intertwinings between emotion and political protest in the 2011 Egyptian revolution through the narratives of Egyptian female personal bloggers. Drawing from scholarship in the emotional turn of social movement theory and using Deborah Gould's concept of emotional habitus, it aims at describing the dominant social moods at different moments of the revolutionary process, in order to address how these emotions fostered or, on the contrary, inhibited protest for social change. For this purpose, the article considers personal blogs as a modified form of Lauren Berlant's intimate publics, alternative spaces through which affect circulates and a shared understanding of reality is constructed.

Through qualitative content analysis of 11 personal blogs written by Egyptian women, the article tracks the different emotional habitus through their narratives. It will shed light on how a pre-revolutionary mood of frustration and resignation gave way, after the revelation of Khaled Said's murder by the police and the success of the Tunisian revolution, to an emotional habitus characterized by hope that opened a political horizon of change and culminated in Mubarak's resignation after 18 days of protest. Once the regime was toppled, however, the personal discourses published in the selected blogs testify to how the economic difficulties and the political instability of the reconstruction time contributed to modify the euphoric mood of the uprisings and turn it into an affective state of frustration and disappointment.

Keywords: Personal blogs, emotions, Egypt, women, revolution, qualitative content analysis

Introduction

The 2011 Egyptian revolution can be explained in many different ways, but even the most systematic account of events will fail to convey the emotional intensities of that time and its affective impact on its participants: the dreams and aspirations, the hope, the pain, the confusion and the disappointment. Although emotions have been traditionally banished from political analysis, I follow Gould in considering that feelings and emotions are central to politics, "providing stimuli and blockages to political activism" (2009, 3).

In a revolution that will go down in history for the participation of women in the uprisings and the role played by social media, I want to focus on the narratives written by anonymous Egyptian female personal bloggers in order to learn, through their own words, how they lived the revolution and participated in the protests. (3) It is my contention that personal blogs-in their double configuration as safe spaces for self-expression and sites for online social interaction-are privileged channels for the transmission of all kind of messages, also political ones. Yet, unlike more politically oriented forms of online communication, in personal blogs emotions are embedded in the narration of events.

Drawing on social movement theory from the emotional turn and considering personal blogs as examples of Lauren Berlant's intimate publics (2011), I aim at piecing together the "constellations of affects, feelings, and emotions" (Gould 2009, 10) that circulated in the blogosphere around the revolutionary days. Through qualitative content analysis of the posts published in 11 personal blogs before the revolution and since the beginning of the protests until March 31,2011, I want to reconstruct a collective affective chronicle of the Egyptian revolution made of the ordinary narrations of an extraordinary time.

The Centrality of Emotions in Protests

The emotional turn that irrupted in the study of social movements in the late 1990s is based on the premise that emotions are key for activism, since they "accompany all social action, providing both motivation and goals" (Jasper 1998, 397). Following Jasper's consideration of emotions as "culturally constructed" rather than "automatic somatic responses" (1998, 399), Gould has developed the concept of emotional habitus, understood as the "socially constituted, prevailing ways of feeling and emoting, as well as the embodied, axiomatic understandings and norms about feelings and their expression" (2009, 10). …

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