I attended the 1:30 to 3:00 PM speeches of today’s “After Tahrir” plenary session. Issues of identity were an important aspect of “Radical Democrats and Legacies of Combat: Strategies and Movements”. In Momen El Husseiny’s speech it was expressed that for the residents of the Al-Rehab compound part of their identity was where they lived. After this place-framed understanding of identity Dalia Abd El Hameed talked about how football ultras in Egypt serve as a source for group-identity and Ranwa Yehia mentioned the emergence of a new “pan Arab identity” as a “result of increased communication and cultural exchange allowed by the Internet”. Furthermore one’s role in the January 25 Revolution seems to be a strong marker for identity and in-group feeling. The mutual fight for human rights and political change seemed to tie people of various different backgrounds together.
The concept of identity stands in contrast to the concept of class. Of course one can identify oneself with the class one belongs to, but that does not necessarily have to be the case. While we choose to identify with one thing or the other, class is a concept that is imposed on us based on our origin, our financial resources and education. Our identities rest within us and might change when we change our values and beliefs. Our class however, is what we are often judged of from the outside and something that cannot be changed that easily.
During the Q&A session it was mentioned that it was class disparity that led to the revolution. Under this premise, the revolution can be seen as an attempt to break away from judging people based on their classes and to caring about people’s identities. Even though the revolution failed in obtaining political justice in the long run, it definitely created change in people’s minds and contributed to the “pan Arab identity” described by Ranwa Yehia. However, not only civilians, but also the ruling authorities must stop thinking of themselves as a higher class and react to the fact that a lot of Egyptians cannot identify with their government.