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Inter-Class Openings in Mass Revolt: Egypt and Jordan in Comparative Perspective

Project: 10
Name: Nada Matta, PhD |
Department: Global Studies and Modern Languages


It is important to note that working on this project requires fluency in Arabic.

This project is related to the comparative case that I plan to add to my book manuscript provisionally titled "Mapping Egypt's Tahrir: Origins and Sustainment of the Mass Revolt in 2011". The question that motivates this comparative research originates in contrasts between the Egyptian experience in 2011 and the mini-uprising in Jordan in 2012. I ask why the movement in Egypt was sustained for 18 days until Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was ousted after 30 years in power, while the 2012 mini-uprising in Jordan lasted only 4 days and accomplished little, if anything.

Based on 140 in-depth interviews with Egyptian activists, archival newspaper research, and macro-economic analysis of Egypt, I was able to develop a mosaic description of the role played by the different social forces in the buildup to the uprising and during the mass revolt that led to the ouster of Mubarak. Contrary to some widespread assumptions about the Egyptian uprising, I show that though tech-savvy youth groups played a key role in the mobilizations, they lacked organizational capacities to sustain mass protests. Instead, I coin the term inter-class openings to describe how middle-class youth political mobilizations and the formation of a clear reform agenda created an opening for disruptive labor groups to play a leading role in the protest. I also show that the kind of labor sectors which mobilized in large numbers in the buildup to the uprising in Egypt played a role on the first day of demonstrations, 25 January 2011, and in sustaining the movement until Mubarak left. Drawing on these findings, I ask: what did Egypt have that Jordan lacked?

I have already completed some of the fieldwork for the comparative case in the book project. I still need to transcribe some of the interviews, analyze survey data using the Arab Barometer, and build an event catalogue based on two Jordanian newspapers: Al Dostour and Al Ghad.

Gained Experience

The student working on this project will be introduced to the topic of the Arab Spring and the recent mobilizations for democracy in the Middle East. They will learn how sociologists approach and analyze social movements; and learn how to conduct newspaper research and build event catalogues. Event catalogues are used in order to develop a complete picture of certain events based on newspaper reporting. For example, the catalogue should describe a protest event by explaining who organized it, which and how many groups participated, how did the authorities respond, etc. If this field of research interests the student, they can use the event catalogue to develop their own research questions on the mobilizations for democracy in Jordan.


This is part of a book project.


  • Conduct newspaper research based on two Jordanian newspapers: Al Dostour and Al Ghad to build an event catalogue for the protest events during 2011 and 2012 in Jordan. The event catalogue can be prepared in English, but the student still has to be fluent in Arabic in order to read and understand the newspaper items.
  • Transcribe a small number of interviews conducted in Arabic. The student can transcribe the interviews into English, but that will require translation on behalf of the student.


The student will be able to work on this research remotely.

Possibility to Work Post Fellowship