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Framing in the Egyptian Revolution

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Wolfgang Schäfer

on 7 February 2013

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Transcript of Framing in the Egyptian Revolution

Social Movement Theory Political
Opportunity Structure Mobilization Framing framing identity
construction emotion
work framing contentious politics A collective action frame...

simplifies and condenses the "world out there"

defines and clarifies symbols and meanings

absorbs, changes and redefines cultural memes

explains their relations towards each other

competes with other frames media framing focuses on newsworthiness rather than issues

shows situations as compressed visual images

encourages performances identity construction Framing needs identities to simplify who is opposing and who is in favor of the movement

building boundaries, separating "us" from "them"

categorical identities are overlapping and multiple
-> must be simplified

identities are connected to specific cultural mystifications (e.g. selflessness, defense of the oppressed, pursuit of justice, return to true morals and faith, ...)

goal: collective solidarity familiar/accepted themes and new ones are mixed

builds bridges to potential allies bricolage ("handicrafts") injustice frames define the current situation as unjust (diagnostic)

attribute the responsibility to others

propose solutions (prognostic, motivational) excursus: empty signifiers "Yes we can, too!"

Making meaning in Egypt’s Contention Thesis: "Yes we can too" -
By actively integrating the multiple identities and frames of various social groups, the Egyptian youth initiated a process that led to a turning point at which the people became aware of the exceptionality of this moment of profound changes. NOT empty signifiers: signifier signified
A signified
B = equivocal signifier signifier signified
A signified
B signified
C ? = ambivalent signifier system (of significations) signifier A signifier B neutral border differentiates = equivalent (both
part of the system) makes meaning expansion of the
system true border breakdown
of signification the excluded true border constitutes the system, but can't be signified itself
=> deficiency of the excluded sector repressive
power-system repressed
sector true border pure
negation the excluded no equivalence no differentiation = deficiency represented by empty
signifier total opposition to movement allies (maybe differences in emotion culture)

to bystanders

to the media (hope to attract attention through extreme expression of emotion)

to the forces of order (repression may lead to acts of revenge)

to public officials Emotions in Movements theory of the “critical mass”

emotional dynamics:
Durkheim “collective effervescence”:
1. physical assembly of people, bodily awareness of co-presence
2. shared focus of attention, also through stereotyped action (chanting…)
3. this becomes a mutual focus of attention: each participant becomes aware of each other's awareness, and thus of each one's unity at this moment with each other.

Consequences:
feelings of group solidarity, emotional energy, symbols, feelings of morality (highest good: commitment to the group) Eish
Bread 44 % of Egyptians are extremely poor
About 9 % unemployment rate
Massive increase of food prices Eish
Bread Karama Insaniyya
Social Justice Huriyya
Freedom Link with 6th of April Movement
Demand for minimum wages
Independent Unions can be seen as an aspect of all social action and social relations

are shaped by social expectations

are also emanations from individual personalities

depend on traditions and on cognitive assessments

often seen as dichotomous or counterposed with: rationality and cognitions Egyptian Youth Emotions - General Remarks as “nouns”: gets displayed, sometimes in a conscious way; sometimes intended to arouse feelings

as “adverbs”: more a style or taste or tone, a quality of an action or identity; a feeling / physical sensation of the body; like a disposition to act in a certain way

also: gender roles Key Groups and their Identities Different Ways to talk about Emotions Suburban Poor Workers movement Aish, Hurriyya, Karama Insaniyya! Academic Treatment of Emotions 6th of April Movement Kifaya We are all Khaled Sa’id either group psychology of the “crowd”: driven by inner needs (lack of secure identity; “confused youngsters”); respond to situations; short-circuit symbolic communication (participants respond directly to each other´s physical actions); easily driven by anxiety and fear (through rumors); frustration leads to aggression

or (Freudian) psychology about individual personality: social networks (connect people with shared beliefs, but also facilitate affective bonds), organizations, shared cultural meaning, negotiations, interactions, avowed goals, processes of mobilization, strategizing… not mentioned Mobilized emotions in relation between movements and significant others The Focus of Emotional Attention “Moral shocks”: often first step toward recruitment; unexpected event raises outrage in a person so she becomes inclined toward political action.

Activists work hard to create moral outrage and anger, and to provide a target against which these can be vented - "There is someone to blame".

Anxieties and fears: must be transformed into moral indignation and outrage toward concrete policies and decision makers. Thus, activists must weave together a moral, cognitive, and emotional package of attitudes. news framing between 25 January and 12 February, 2011 semiofficial newspapers Karama Insaniyya
Social Justice Huriyya
Freedom Aish
Bread 25th of January:
Collective Frame of Youth, Workers Movement, and Suburban Poor dominating: conflict frame, economic frame

protesters: disruptive forces, unemployed thugs, foreign conspirators, delinquent and violent youth

regime: provides stability and wealth, acts lawful

event: conspiracy, chaos 2nd of February
Entering of many pro-Mubarak protesters
Extremely violent attack by a small pro-Mubarak group on horse and camel back independent newspapers dominating: conflict frame, human interest frame

protesters: mostly innocent, pure, noble, selfless

regime: violating protester's rights

event: revolution social media dominating: human interest frame

protesters: suffering, martyrs, peaceful, civilized

regime: coldblooded, violent, brutal

event: revolution perceived injustice food prices

general economic inequality

lack of prospects, youth unemployment

low wages and fraud against workers
7th of February
Emotional Television-Interview of Wael Ghonim (initiator of “We are all Khaled Sai’d” Facebook Page)

➜“I'm sorry, but this is not our fault. I swear to God this is not our fault. It is the fault of everyone who is holding onto power greedily and would not let it go”

New evolution of the collective identity from anti-regime to Mubarak must go Key Moments Violent reaction of Police forces against peaceful demonstrations

=> Evolution of identity: “we” the peaceful protesters against “them” the brutal police forces and the regime which commands them Key Moments ➜ “Battle of the Camel” New identity:
“we” the anti-Mubarak and for democracy group
“them” the violent, supporters of the corrupt regime, the pro-Mubarak group
Defense of the oppressed, pursuit of justice, “our dignity and rights” Key Moments Thank you for your attention!


Do you have any questions? "Yes we can too" -
By actively integrating the multiple identities and frames of various social groups, the Egyptian youth initiated a process that led to a turning point at which the people became aware of the exceptionality of this moment of profound changes. Thesis
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