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Since the 2011 uprisings, the MENA region has seen much turmoil: from Morocco to Iraq, countries have witnessed various waves of protest directed against state authorities. These developments have had various outcomes: in some countries, protests resulted in the toppling of authoritarian regimes (e.g. Libya, Tunisia). In other countries, developments involved a reinforcement of authoritarianism.

Egypt is a case in point of the latter development. Over the past years, protest has been met with the harshest of counter-measures. As freedom of the press has been curtailed, protests that still occur receive minimal coverage. The resulting relative calm might suggest a form of political stability, or even legitimacy of the current regime. However, this superficial social acquiescence does not mean that state-society relations are normalized or stabilized. Indeed, while the global momentum for revolutionary politics has passed, the social and political situation remains under extreme pressure.

Since the level of repression in Egypt after 2013 has reached a point where strains in the relations between state and society are preferably expressed in an indirect and non-political language, this research group focuses on topics that have previously been neglected for their lack of direct political meaning.


This research group looks at a variety of sites where state and society interact, with a focus on urban settings. The project revolves around two PhD projects:

  • Project 1 analyses state-society relations in Egypt by looking at the recent (post-2013) boom of urban development projects in the Egyptian deserts. Especially, the current build-up of the New Administrative Capital of Egypt offers an interesting insight in how the future of Egypt is imagined and built. By using a spatial STS approach, this thesis will show how recent urban developments are mediated by the media, 3D-rendering programmes, real-estate speculations (capitalization), and new national paradigms. This helps us better understand the different forces shaping everyday life in Egypt.
  • Project 2 analyses state-society relations in Egypt, Tunisia and Bahrain by focusing on the meaning of political space in times of revolution and counter-revolution. The project focuses on the epicentres of Arab Spring protest in Cairo, Tunis and Manama. Using a spatial approach, it examines the changing shape, use and meaning of these protest sites to discover the shifting power dynamics in public space after the Arab Spring. By means of this approach, the project aims to contribute to an understanding of contemporary state-society relations and its expression in the urban context. Comparative in nature, this project highlights similarities and differences in these relations and expressions within different political and social conditions.

Any questions concerning the research group or its two projects can be directed to

Projected output

The research group is projected to last four years, with a possible extension of one year. In this period various paper presentations are to be expected as well as a conference on the research group themes, in collaboration with ACMES. While the publication of (peer-reviewed) articles on each of the two projects are a distinct possibility, the main objective of this research group is the finalization of two PhD theses by August 2025, possibly 2026.


Dr. R.A.F.L. (Robbert) Woltering