The EGYCLASS Project
The Orient Institut Beirut has officially joined the EGYCLASS project as a core institution. The main objective of this project – led by CNRS researcher Marie Vannetzel – is to set up an interdisciplinary research programme aimed at providing a comprehensive analysis of social classes in Egypt. While this country has gone into disruptive political and economic transformations since the 2011 Revolution, little is known about the social impacts of these transformations. A systematic and multi-dimensional study is needed to understand how, beneath illusions of stability claimed by the new authoritarian regime, social morphology is quickly changing and may shake the latter’s foundations. This research proposal tackles central issues such as: How have increasing economic inequalities reshaped the space of social positions and affected the living conditions of many Egyptians? What is the reality and current developments of the mythicized ‘middle class’, which is considered the engine of development and the leading actor in the 2011 Revolution? How can poverty be better understood through an approach that embraces the fundamental heterogeneity of popular classes? As for the elites, do they remain in an unshakeable position or are some of its fractions also witnessing downgrading?
Building on existing links and scientific exchanges between leading researchers in sociology, anthropology, political science, history and economics, the IRN will associate 6 core institutions apart from the Orient Institut Beirut and Orient Institut Cairo – the CEDEJ (Egypt/France), the American University in Cairo (Egypt), the Research Cluster Society and Culture in Motion (Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany), the Center for Anthropological Research on Affect and Materiality (Ghent University, Belgium) and the Department of Social Anthropology of Stockholm University (Sweden). It also federates a number of individual members located in Egypt and in diverse countries: the United Kingdom, the United States, the Czech Republic, Finland, Norway, Italy and South Africa.
Here at the Orient Institut, the project is handled by Director Birgit Schäbler and Research Associate Pierre France, the latter being in the charge of the sub-group “statistics” of EGYCLASS with IFAO Researcher Malak Labib. Combining quantitative and qualitative methods, and gathering insightful studies that have until now remained scattered in time and space, the project endeavours to develop the first ‘research infrastructure’ on social classes in Egypt which will serve as an innovative reference base for a multitude of works in various disciplinary fields, as well as for international comparisons and alternative policy-making: apart from Egypt, needless to say, such an approach is much needed also in the case of Lebanon.