New Neighborhood Power: Informal Popular Committees and Changing Local Governance in Egypt
Cilja Harders, Dina Wahba – 2017
After the uprising of 2011, new forms of political participation emerged, among them the popular committees (lijan sha’abiyah). Initially convened mainly to ensure security at the neighborhood level, the committees came to life after the withdrawal of police forces from the public in Cairo, Alexandria, Suez, Port Said, and many towns of the Nile Delta. After the initial eighteen days of the Egyptian revolution, the popular committees expanded their activities and, in different ways in different places, became vehicles to advocate for local needs through informal and formal channels. To a limited degree, the committees gave voice to groups and individuals that had been marginalized. Drawing on original fieldwork in several neighborhoods of Cairo and Giza, the authors argue that the committees embody a new form of political participation in Egypt, which has endured despite the country’s sharp return to authoritarianism. Although the committee are varied and imperfectly democratic, they are a dividend of the revolution that will continue to be relevant in Egypt’s political future.