The Politics of the Poor in the Middle East and North Africa. Between Contestation and Accommodation
Cilja Harders – 2021
The contribution looks at the “politics of the poor”, which includes a huge variety of political practices between formal and informal, open and hidden, and on local and national scales. Even though there is a preference for the quotidian, and less-visible practices, poor people have been an important, but understudied part of the ongoing wave of protests and regime-cracking mobilization in the last years. Building on my own work, but also on Ghannam’s (2012), Ismail’s (2012, 2013), Wahba’s (2020) and Leenders’ (2012), I trace poor people’s role in the 2011 uprising and the ensuing cross-class coalitions on the square and beyond Tahrir square. Before that, I develop a qualitative lifeworld-oriented understanding of poverty in order to counter stereotypical assumptions about the life and politics of poor people. In addition, I use a conceptualization of the state politics and participation which sheds light on power dynamics in order to trace the contradictory dynamics of inclusion and exclusion. Overall, I argue, even though the poor are systematically denied many citizenship rights as these are contingent on material resources they do not have, they constantly struggle to make their ways into – and around – contemporary social contracts.