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Citation Information

Type Journal Article - Journal of Social Science Education
Title Children in the garden of democracy: The meaning of civic engagement in today’s Egypt
Volume 12
Issue 1
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2013
URL http://jsse.org/index.php/jsse/article/view/1224
This is the second in a series of reports on the
current wave of youth civic engagement in Egypt.
Our goal is to offer an on-the-ground account of the
unfolding political changes in Egypt from the
perspective a small group of youths. Individual
young people were selected by the second author in
the first of his recurring visits to Egypt beginning
one week after the resignation of Hosni Mubarak on
February 11, 2011. Local contacts recommended individual
youth to be interviewed, who then provided
further introductions. Through this “snowball” procedure,
the final group of youth (ranging from 8-12
depending on availability at the time of subsequent
interviews) was selected strategically to include
much of the apparent diversity among Egyptian
youth, while at the same time being small enough to
permit in-depth, repeated interviews with them over
the unfolding course of the revolution. Specifically,
the group (all in their 20s) included males and
female Muslims and Christians from Cairo and
Alexandria who were involved to varying degrees in
the revolution—ranging from never being involved in
demonstrations to constant participation (e.g.,
through sitting in Tahrir Square night and day
during critical periods). They have been interviewed
individually in English at approximately 4 month
intervals since the initial contact in early 2011.
Our first report was based on the portion of the
interviews in which the youths described their
involvement in the demonstrations of early 2011
that led to the resignation of Hosni Mubarak. We
viewed their comments in terms of a socialmovement
approach to civic engagement. These
young people spelled out their grievances against
Mubarak’s government, the ideological outlook they
shared on political reform, the opportunities that
enabled their actions, and the organizational apparatus
that made this momentous event possible
(Barber & Youniss 2012).
This article is a reflective analysis of questions
that have emerged in our enfolding research. We
continued to interview these same youth over the
past year and situated their evolving views first with
our further exploration of Egypt’s complex political
situation and second with our knowledge of recent
social scientific thought regarding civic engagement
among youth. This triangulation leads us to consider
three kinds of questions: 1) how to assess civic
engagement adequately in a population of youth that
lived under politically restrictive conditions; 2) how
new definitions of active Egyptian citizenship are
emerging; and 3) what these new definitions imply
for engagement in the future.

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