The Wheel of Production Must Turn: The Striving for Normality as a Commitment to Reality in Post-2011 Egypt

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Aymon Kreil
Samuli Schielke


In Egypt, calls to restore normality emerged almost immediately after the 2011 uprising started. In the following years, they gained increasing appeal, paving the way to an authoritarian restoration. The revolution of January 25 ended with the victory of a party that promised stability and a strong military ruler, in large part because those promises echoed many people’s anxieties and hopes about the future and resonated with their day-to-day practices of handling urgent everyday concerns. This success did not just rest on ideological agreements over political ideals, but also on what we describe as commitments to a reality that those involved would consider not to need explanation or legitimation – that is, as normal. Normality, we argue, is best understood as an inherently ambiguous, ‘essentially contested’ concept that unites three distinct dimensions: (1) what is, that is, an ordinary recurring reality that may or may not be normative; (2) what is and ought to be, that is, what is naturalized and pursued as normative and necessary; and (3) what ought to be but is not, that is, an expectation of what ought to be unproblematic and self-evident, yet is not within reach in the here and now. This productive ambiguity of normality allows for major transformations to take place in the name of the restoration and maintenance of a self-evident reality.

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