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Photo of Said, Atef S.

Atef S. Said, PhD

Associate Professor


Pronouns: He/Him/His


Building & Room:

4146A BSB


1007 W Harrison St.

Office Phone:


CV Download:

Said CV Sept 2023


Courses Taught:

Classical Sociological Theory, Seminar in Political Sociology, Historical Sociological Methods, Middle Eastern Societies, Contemporary Social Movements, and Revolutions.



I am a sociologist, passionate about politics, revolutions, and social change. My scholarship engages with the fields of sociological theory, political sociology, historical sociology, sociology of the Middle East, and global sociology.

Building on and expanding my first academic book Revolution Squared: Tahrir, Political Possibilities and Counterrevolution in Egypt, I am working now on two concurrent projects. The first explores the future of revolutions. For me, whether or not there is a future for revolutions is a futile question. Rather, I am interested in the nature of future revolutions as they relate to political and social change, and the evolving meanings and practices of democracy today. The project is theoretical and historical in nature, where I examine the shifting meanings of revolutions historically in relation to coloniality and decoloniality and knowledge production. In short, I propose that to better understand future revolutions, we must closely examine our past knowledge about revolutions and the newer conditions of revolutions in the second half of the 21st century. In my second project, I investigate the global rise of neo-liberal authoritarianism over the past two decades, within historically established democracies and non-democracies alike. I do so with a focus on the expanded role of digital technology in shaping and or eroding substantive meanings of democracy in relation to the rise of new modes of governance and digital capitalism.

Before I transitioned to academia, I worked as a human rights attorney and researcher in Egypt, from 1995 to 2004. While there, I practiced human rights law and directed research initiatives at a number of human rights organizations. I also wrote two books, Torture in Egypt: A Judicial Reality (2000), published by the Human Rights Center for the Assistance of Prisoners, and Torture Is a Crime Against Humanity (2008), published by the Hisham Mubarak Law Center. Both organizations are based in Cairo, Egypt. I received a Master’s degree in Sociology and Anthropology from the American University in Cairo, as well as a Master’s degree and my doctorate in Sociology, from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. My PhD dissertation was a study of Cairo’s famed Tahrir Square as both a political space and a lens for understanding the successes and failures of the Egyptian Revolution of 2011. Drawing on extensive ethnographic and historical data, I linked the Square’s historical constitution as a political space to the long history of political protest in Egypt. The dissertation received the 2014 ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Award at the University of Michigan, an annual award given in recognition of the most exceptional scholarly work produced by doctoral students at the University of Michigan.
You can find my scholarly articles in such journals as Social Problems, Social Research, International Sociology, Sociology Compass, Contemporary Sociology, Middle East Critique. My work also appeared in important scholarly references such as Oxford Handbook of the Sociology of the Middle East, the I.B.Tauris Handbook of Sociology and the Middle East and important scholarly books such as Political Science Research in the Middle East and North Africa: Methodological and Ethical Challenges.

I also regularly contribute to political, cultural, and intellectual public conversations, as demonstrated by my essays in US Amnesty Magazine, the “Immanent Frame” blog of the Social Science Research Council, the Oxford Bibliographies in Sociology, the Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP) as well as Jadaliyya, the influential news and critical commentary site of the Washington, DC-based Arab Studies Institute. I have also written for Fair Observer, Truthout, and “Mobilizing Ideas”, the online blog of the Center for the Study of Social Movements of Notre Dame University.