On 25 January 2011, tens of thousands of Egyptians came out on the streets to protest against emergency rule and police brutality. Eighteen days later, Mubarak, one of the longest sitting dictators in the region, had gone. How are we to make sense of these events? Was this a revolution, a revolutionary moment? How did the protests come about? How were they able to outmanoeuvre the police? Was this really a 'leaderless revolution,' as so many pundits claimed, or were the protests an out- growth of the protest networks that had developed over the past decade? Why did so many people with no history of activism participate? What role did economic and systemic crises play in creating the conditions for these pro- tests to occur? Was this really a Facebook revolution? Why Occupy a Square? is a dynamic exploration of the shape and timing of these extraordinary events, the players behind them, and the tactics and protest frames they developed. Drawing on social movement theory, it traces the interaction between protest cycles, regime responses and broader structural changes over the past decade. Using theories of urban politics, space and power, it reflects on the exceptional state of non-sovereign politics that developed during the occupation of Tahrir Square.
Jeroen Gunning is Reader in Middle East Politics at the University of Durham, and author of Hamas in Politics: Democracy, Religion, Violence (Hurst). Ilan Zvi Baron is Lecturer in the School of Government and International Affairs, University of Durham.