Cover of Bread and Freedom by Mona El-Ghobashy
Bread and Freedom
Egypt's Revolutionary Situation
Mona El-Ghobashy


392 pages.
from $30.00

Hardcover ISBN: 9781503601765
Paperback ISBN: 9781503628151
Ebook ISBN: 9781503628168

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Excerpts and More

Joint-Winner of the 2022 Charles Taylor Book Award, sponsored by the American Political Science Association (APSA) - Interpretive Methodologies and Methods Conference Group (IMM).

Honorable Mention for the 2022 Nikki Keddie Book Award, sponsored by the Middle East Studies Association (MESA).

Joint-Winner of the 2022 APSA MENA Politics Section Award for Best Book, sponsored by the American Political Science Association (APSA) - Middle East and North Africa Politics Section.

Winner of the 2022 Choice Award for Outstanding Academic Title, sponsored by the American Library Association.

Named a 2022 Foreign Affairs Best Book of the Year Award, sponsored by the Foreign Affairs.

A multivocal account of why Egypt's defeated revolution remains a watershed in the country's political history.

Bread and Freedom offers a new account of Egypt's 2011 revolutionary mobilization, based on a documentary record hidden in plain sight—party manifestos, military communiqués, open letters, constitutional contentions, protest slogans, parliamentary debates, and court decisions. A rich trove of political arguments, the sources reveal a range of actors vying over the fundamental question in politics: who holds ultimate political authority. The revolution's tangled events engaged competing claims to sovereignty made by insurgent forces and entrenched interests alike, a vital contest that was terminated by the 2013 military coup and its aftermath.

Now a decade after the 2011 Arab uprisings, Mona El-Ghobashy rethinks how we study revolutions, looking past causes and consequences to train our sights on the collisions of revolutionary politics. She moves beyond the simple judgments that once celebrated Egypt's revolution as an awe-inspiring irruption of people power or now label it a tragic failure. Revisiting the revolutionary interregnum of 2011–2013, Bread and Freedom takes seriously the political conflicts that developed after the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, an eventful thirty months when it was impossible to rule Egypt without the Egyptians.

About the author

Mona El-Ghobashy is Clinical Assistant Professor of Liberal Studies at New York University.

"Mona El-Ghobashy adds a new perspective to the canonical view of the Arab Spring with the immensely readable and thoughtfully constructed Bread and Freedom. Starting from Charles Tilly's insight that revolutions are more like traffic jams than eclipses of the sun, El-Ghobashy revisits how an Egyptian protest became a revolutionary situation."

—Sidney G. Tarrow, Cornell University

"If you read only one book on the 10th anniversary of the Arab Spring, make it Bread and Freedom. Mona El-Ghobashy leads the reader behind the scenes to the real battles of 2011, for a rewarding read that challenges everything you thought you knew about revolutionary uprisings. A rare treat."

—Elizabeth F. Thompson, American University

"In this gripping political history, Mona El-Ghobashy overturns conventional dramaturgical narratives of Egypt's 2011 uprising as marked by hopeful beginnings and calamitous endings. Instead, she captures the uncertainty and interstitial quality of Egypt's interregnum as a 'revolutionary situation.' Marked by analytical rigor and immense narrative detail, Bread and Freedom is a must-read for anyone concerned with deeper conceptual questions surrounding the entanglement of revolution and democracy."

—Omnia El Shakry, University of California, Davis

"With an unusual command of detail and an uncommon facility with social science theory, El-Ghobashy recounts the years of upheaval in Egypt between the 2011 uprising against President Hosni Mubarak and the 2014 election of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi... As El-Ghobashy elegantly shows, it is small wonder that the politics of those years seemed so confusing and uncertain. They were, for actors and observers alike—and she provides much welcome clarity."

—Lisa Anderson, Foreign Affairs

"This is essential reading for specialists of Egyptian politics and theorists of revolution, as well as scholars of authoritarianism, contentious politics, and regime transition... Bread and Freedomwill spur important conversations. And hopefully, with time, it will facilitate the shared understandings that are necessary for Egyptians to build a common future."

—Tamir Moustafa, International Journal of Middle East Studies

"Bread and Freedomis well-written and thoroughly researched, and it utilizes a wide range of secondary sources. El-Ghobashy revives an old concept but pushes the reader to rethink revolutions by focusing on uncertainty. Her argument that focuses on uncertainty through the concept of a revolutionary situation holds up to the evidence... She thus encourages the reader to understand revolutions and their aftermath not as pre-determined events but as unpredictable competitions among multiple sovereignty claims that strive to end revolutionary situations."

—Sarp Kurgan, Middle East Librarians Association

"Mona El-Ghobashy's Bread and Freedom is a richly detailed and theoretically deft unsettling of arguments that Egypt's Arab Spring trajectory was linear or preordained. Adopting the concept of a "revolutionary situation," she highlights how circumstance, uncertainty, and reaction interacted to drive forward events on the ground...Bread and Freedom narrates Egypt's "revolutionary situation" as a series of critical junctures, each produced by some prior interaction, and in turn generative of a new one."

—Steven Brooke, Perspectives on Politics

Mona el-Ghobashy's Bread and Freedom offers perhaps the single best narrative of Egypt from 2011 to the present which has yet been written. Her finely grained, beautifully crafted storytelling reveals the sheer complexity of the revolutionary period and the multiplicity of actors trying to navigate a profoundly uncertain environment."

—Marc Lynch, Project on Middle East Political Science

"Bread and Freedom is an exceptional work that offers a clear analysis of the Egyptian revolution of 2011—a notably confusing case. It also presents a novel and refreshing assessment of scholarship on both the Egyptian case specifically, and on revolution in general."

—Atef Said, Mobilization: An International Quarterly

This is an essential work for students of contemporary Egypt and the politics of the Arab world generally and also for those with a comparative focus on revolution, social movements, or democratization. ... [T]his book's rich analysis should induce many scholars to read it from cover to cover and to return to it again and again. Essential."

—G. E. Perry, Choice

"Bread and Freedom is particularly strong on political history as it is well-written and thoroughly researched with a remarkable mastery of detail and an uncommon command of social science theory. El-Ghobashy provides an interesting interpretation of the Egyptian revolution as she resurrects an old concept while forcing the reader to reconsider revolutions by emphasising uncertainty."

—Dunia Essam, London School of Economics Review of Books

"El-Ghobashy evokes the wonder, confusion, uncertainty, and astonishment of the time with accuracy and elegance. This is what might be called quantum political science, where uncertainty is not a transientcondition but a principle...We would do well to learn how to toggle between particles and waves, regime types and political practices, as deftly as El-Ghobashy does inBread and Freedom."

—Lisa Anderson, Political Science Quarterly

"Bread and Freedom's classicism reminds us how classical tools and insights can produce novel arguments about the Egyptian Revolution, and that this classicism shouldn't be an obstacle to Bread and Freedom becoming a classic."

—Youssef El Chazli, Contemporary Sociology

"A masterful account of the Egyptian revolution—one of the best that has yet been written—and it will surely be read and remembered by many for its incisive analysis, its dazzling prose, and its clear explication of this important and complex political episode."

—Killian Clarke, Arab Studies Journal