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Thugs in Revolution: Transforming the Criminal Body amidst Political Transition in Egypt, 2011-2016

Hassan, Hatem M. (2019) Thugs in Revolution: Transforming the Criminal Body amidst Political Transition in Egypt, 2011-2016. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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What constitutes an honorable citizen during the collapse and (re)formation of a modern nation state often relies upon developing a legal framework in negative terms—by codifying criminal subjects into entities repugnant to national rulers, a supportive population, and the revolutionaries themselves. Processes of social and legal codification are investigated here by tracing the historical transformation of the term, phenomenon, practice, and aesthetics of the Egyptian baltajy (بلطجي or “thug”) in the period between the ousting of former President Hosni Mubarak (1981-2011) and subsequent removal of President Mohammed Morsi (June 2012 - July 2013) by former Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Abdel Fatteh el-Sisi. The baltajy here became a common figure in official, cinematic, and popular imaginaries, quickly inundating everyday conversations and political speeches.

The coming sections explore sociohistorical and aesthetic functions and limitations of criminal discourses. What stories, words, concepts, and images are deployed in constructing a discourse of the thug in a revolutionary moment and how are narratives constructed by the state, entertainment industry, and population? What political and cultural projects does the discourse on thugs allow or inhibit, and what may this reveal to us about its interlocutors? I ask more broadly: What productive function does the constitution of the criminal play in the midst of such momentous change? Answers to these inquiries derived from sixty-five in-depth interviews; 758 reports and opinion pieces from al-Ahram, the regional state-owned newspaper; Egyptian films (1950s-2016); and the 2016 television serial al-Ustuura. Investigation of this period allows one to better trace the impetuses, effects, and vilification of the appropriation of private or state property; the perceived dissolution of the family in an urban metropolis; and a politics of disrespectability which questions corrupt and self-interested practices of state rulers and businessmen.

Woven together, these sources reveal a kaleidoscope of contrasting and overlapping narrative constructions of thugs—cascading illustrations that portray them as thieves, corrupt politicians, microbus drivers, anti-modern urban dwellers, immoral youth, self-serving opportunists, protestors, businessmen, or the president of the Republic himself. In these images, we locate the tensions among a population with contrasting futures of a post-revolutionary Egypt.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Hassan, Hatem M.hathasnj@gmail.comhmh33
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairBamyeh, Mohammedmab205@pitt.edumab205
Committee MemberMarkoff, Johnjm2@pitt.edujm2
Committee MemberCondee, Nancycondee@pitt.educondee
Committee MemberDuck, Waverlywod1@pitt.eduwod1
Date: 25 June 2019
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 12 November 2018
Approval Date: 25 June 2019
Submission Date: 5 March 2019
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 300
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Sociology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Ethnography; Egypt; Social Movements; Deviance; Urban Sociology
Date Deposited: 25 Jun 2019 21:27
Last Modified: 25 Jun 2019 21:27


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