Focoult, Understanding Power in the Egyptian Context

In my last post, I highlighted the disappointing results of the Egyptian revolution to women’s movement. I won’t go back to the details of the post. Feel free to check it out before reading this post.
In 1981, Egypt became a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which aims to guarantee women equal access to and enjoymentof political, economic, social, cultural and civil rights. As shown by the statistics in my earlier post, the gender gap in Egypt has consistently stayed low and there was almost no change even after the revolution. Majority of the Egyptian women are considered subalterns and although there have been women advocacy groups and a number of changes in the law, there hasn’t been any significant shift that allowed women to enjoy equal political, social and economical rights as men.
It is evident that an entrenched system cannot be adjusted by a mere change in regime and as Focoult states, “Power is everywhere; not because it embraces everything, but because it comes from everywhere….power is not an institution, and not a structure; neither is it a certain strength we are endowed with; it is the name that one attributes to a complex strategical situation in a particular society” (Foucault, History 93). Focouldian view that power is not an institution or a structure starts to explain the complexities which have resulted in an oppressed position of woman in the Egyptian society. Focoult continues to argue that “Power is not something that is acquired, seized, or shared, something that one holds onto or allows to slip away; power is exercised from innumerable points, in the interplay of nonegaltarian and mobile relations” (Foucault, History 94). In calling for change, it is important that the power relations are understood; they way they function and how it affects the discourse. Focoult states that “Power comes from below; that is, there is no binary and all-encompassing opposition between rulers and ruled at the root of power relations” (Focoult, History 94). In other words, we cannot and should not see the Egyptian women as the ruled (subaltern) fighting against the rulers (men in power) but power operating in the Egyptian society in all aspects. This explains why the change in the Mubarak regime did not lead to the change in the ‘ruling ideas’ as dictated by the superstructure. In this sense, taking over power, does not equate to obtaining freedom.
One aspect that sheds light is how Focoult describes power as relational. He states that it is “the multiplicity of force relations immanent in the sphere in which they constitute their own organization.” (Focoult, History 58)The fact that it is relational means is is mobile, dynamic and reproduced by people and different groups.

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