Action, imagination, institution, natality, revolution

Ziad Elmarsafy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The article reinforces an evaluation of the 25 January 2011 revolution as opposed to conservative and traditional forces in Egyptian society and among the ruling elite. Drawing on Hannah Arendt’s concept of natality, the article argues that a revolution cannot be imagined and enacted without women’s political action at its centre. Action, here, is envisaged as a challenge to the morbidity of moralising discourses which attempt to contain women/revolution. Here, natality, novelty and revolution go together; and natality provides the ontological ground for action. By looking at two early accounts written on the first 18 days of the revolution, Ahdaf Soueif’s Cairo: My City, Our Revolution, and Mona Prince’s Ismi Thawra (My Name is Revolution), the article highlights the linkage between women’s action and their imagination in configuring and expressing the revolutionary nature of the events which started on 25 January. Popular culture (the mulid) is also tapped for a reading that stresses the natality motif. Arendt’s natality is thus conceived as enabling newness and opening up possibilities previously unimagined. This is the substance of revolution; that is what makes it radical, unpredictable, creative and imaginative, as the article illustrates by unpacking the selected passages.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)130-138
Number of pages9
JournalJournal for Cultural Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2015


  • action
  • Egyptian revolution
  • natality
  • women


Dive into the research topics of 'Action, imagination, institution, natality, revolution'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this