Sing (Manfred)

Manfred Sing (Leibniz-IEG, Mainz), “The Concept of Citizenship in Formally (Not So) Independent Egypt”

The concept of citizenship has a descriptive and a normative side. It grasps the active participation of the population in politics and a set of rights granted by the state. It is also seen as a necessary ingredient of the modern democratic nation state. Moreover, the concept is closely intertwined with processes of exclusion and inclusion.

For the Middle East, citizenship was mostly used to point at a lack of popular participation in politics and a lack of citizen rights as well as at discrimination of women and minorities, thus explaining the absence of Arab democratic states (“ethnocratic states”, “states without citizens”). At best, the uprisings of 2011 and 2019 have been interpreted as a quest for more citizenship rights and democratization. James Sater (2013), professor of international relations, has pointed at the Orientalist assumptions underlying the very concept of citizenship which was originally coined to exclude the “Orientals” and whose adoption in the Middle East was associated with the partial exclusion of the majority of the Arab population. Sater called for “undoing” the Western genealogy, “uncovering” local layers of meaning, and “reinventing” new perspectives on citizenship. The chapter follows this line of questioning and re-conceptualization. It considers citizenship as a process, a concept with permanently shifting meanings, and asks about the extent, content, and depth of citizenship in various contexts. The lens of this questioning is the debate about citizenship and the legal and constitutional making of Egypt in the 1920s, while also considering the period before and after as well as the developments in the broader region.

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