Atef S. Said

Research Interests:
Sociological Theory, Social Movements, Revolutions, Political Sociology, Ethnography, Comparative Historical Sociology, Sociology of the State, Sociology of Colonialism and Empire, Sociology of Law and Human Rights and Sociology of the Middle East

SOC 585 Classical Sociological Theory
SOC 565 Graduate Seminar in Political Sociology (From Social Movements to Revolutions)
SOC 465 Topics in Sociology of Politics (Arab Revolutions)
SOC 465 Topics in Sociology of Politics (Middle Eastern Societies)
SOC 465 Topics in Sociology of Politics (From Arab Spring to ISIS)
SOC 465 Topics in Sociology of Politics (Contemporary Social Movements)
SOC 385 Introduction to Sociological Theory

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Bio: Before changing my career to academia, I worked as a human rights attorney and researcher in Egypt from 1995 to 2004, where I practiced human rights law and directed research initiatives in different human rights organizations. I 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 in Sociology and Anthropology from the American University in Cairo, as well as a Master’s and a PhD in Sociology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. In my PhD dissertation, I studied 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. This Award is given in recognition of the most exceptional scholarly work produced by doctoral students at the University of Michigan who completed their dissertations in 2014.

I published articles appearing in journals such as Social Research, International Sociology and Contemporary Sociology, as well as US Amnesty Magazine, the “Immanent Frame” blog of the Social Science Research Council, as well as the influential news and commentary site of the Arab Studies Institute, Jadaliyya. I also write for “Mobilizing Ideas,” the online blog of the Center for the Study of Social Movements of Notre Dame University. I am currently working on my book manuscript that builds upon my dissertation research. The book is tentatively titled “The Tahrir Effect: Protest, Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Contemporary Egypt.” The book examines the relationship between revolution, social movements, and political public space in Egypt since the events of 2011 up to the summer of 2015.

The book asks how the literal, physical, and symbolic confinement of the revolution to Tahrir Square in 2011 shaped its outcome—both in terms of the events of the revolution itself and its continued unfolding implications. On the one hand, I problematize the notion that the revolution was an urban revolution emergent primarily in Cairo by discussing protests and other forms of mobilization in various urban centers such as Alexandria, Mahala, and Suez. On the other hand, I ask how it is that the revolution came to be identified so strongly with Tahrir Square, and how and why this identification mattered. Using the concept of “political public space,” I chart, first, the expansion of such space within Egypt in the months immediately following the revolution, and then the radical contraction of public political space in the years that have followed. Throughout, I emphasize the need to take into account the complex history and spatiality of protests, social movements, and the revolutions they sometimes manage to produce. Only in this way, I argue, can we arrive at a fully grounded understanding of what happened in Egypt and its ramifications for the region and beyond.


Contact Information:

Office: 4146A BSB
Office Phone: 312-413-3761