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Dr. Jannis Julien Grimm


Dissertation: "Contesting Legitimacy: Protest and the Politics of Signification in Post-Revolutionary Egypt"

Dr. Jannis Julien Grimm heads the junior research group "Radical Spaces" at the Center for Interdisciplinary Peace and Conflict Research since October 2021. He holds a PhD in political science on the relationship between political violence and state repression in Egypt from the Berlin Graduate School Muslim Cultures, Freie Universität Berlin. After his doctoral studies at the BGSMCS and until April 2021, Jannis coordinated the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung's regional trade union support program in the MENA region, its regional project on the development of socially just economic policies, as well as the FES country project on Libya. Between 2016 and 2020, Jannis furthermore served as a co-director of the "SAFEResearch" project, based at the University of Gothenburg's GLD Center. In the project, he mainly coordinated the working group on data security and digital safety. Jannis has been a visiting fellow at the COSMOS Center on Social Movement Studies at Scuola Normale Superiore Florence and the Orient Institute Istanbul, amongst others, and has conducted extensive research on processes of mass mobilisation and regime change in the Arab world at the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik/SWP Berlin and the Mittelmeerinstitut of the Humboldt University Berlin.

Jannis Grimm is a board member and associate researcher at the Institute for Protest and Social Movement Research (ipb) in Berlin, where he co-edits of the ipb working paper series. He is also a member of the editorial board of FJSB - the German journal of social movement studies. His handbook for safe and ethical field research in hostile environments "Safer Field Research in the Social Sciences" was published by SAGE in 2020. His monograph "Contested Legitimacies: Repression and Revolt in Post-Revolutionary Egypt," which won the German Middle East Studies Association's dissertation award in 2020 and the German Political Science Association's research award in 2021, is forthcoming in the "Protest and Social Movements" series by Amsterdam University Press.

Thesis: Contesting Legitimacy: Protest and the Politics of Signification in Post-Revolutionary Egypt


The dissertation examines the issue of mobilisation in the context of authoritarian contraction through the lenses of hegemony theory. It explores the shifting coali-tions of contenders in Egypt since the 2013 military coup and their contending conceptions of political legitimacy. Its conceptual perspective is defined by the realisation that processes of social mobilisation are contingent on the dynamics of interaction between political contenders. This interaction takes place on the streets between demonstrators and police forces, and it takes place on a discursive level where contenders articulate competing narratives about contentious events in an attempt to establish hegemony for their reading of social reality. I argue that the trajectory of mobilisation and opportunities for cross-movement alliance building, as well as the scale of repression wielded by authorities against their contenders heavily depend on the outcome of this latter, discursive struggle. Accordingly, in this dissertation project I investigate the unfolding waves of mobili-sation in post-coup Egypt in a nested research design that combines quantitative protest event analysis with in-depth qualitative analysis of the contested discours-es about events on the ground. By tracking the contentious dynamics in Egypt with the proposed analytical focus from the 2013 Tamarod-uprising, over the Anti-Coup campaign against the deposition of President Mursi, to the restoration of an authoritarian order under the aegis of General Al-Sisi and, finally, to the 2016 Tiran and Sanafir island protests, I highlight the impact of shifts in the discursive architecture of contentious politics on the conditions of possibility and the oppor-tunity structures for both, resistance and repression. The aim of investigating pro-cesses of political contestation both in the discursive and the performative arena is to illustrate how the narratives established around contentious events crucially account for variances in the reaction of movements to regime action, of regimes to mobilisation, and of the broader public to the means by which these principal contenders interact with each other to achieve their goals—for instance, by esca-lating collective action and radicalising repertoires, or by restricting civil liberties and deploying state violence against protesters. Ultimately, this thesis thus attempts to map Egypt’s contentious politics in the first years of Al-Sisi’s reign. By systematically linking the performative and the discursive in an analytical frame-work informed by discourse theory and relational approaches of social movement studies, I propose an integrated approach to the study of contentious politics—one that 30 years after the cultural turn in the study of contention is still lacking.

For a list of publications see: https://fu-berlin.academia.edu/JGrimm

Recent books:  

  • Grimm (2022) Contested Legitimacies: Repression and Revolt in Post-Revolutionary Egypt. Amsterdam, NL: Amsterdam University Press. Available open access via: https://www.aup.nl/en/book/9789048553457/contested-legitimacies.
  • Grimm et al. (2020) Safer Field Research in the Social Sciences: A Guide to Human and Digital Security in Hostile Environments. London, UK: SAGE