Injustice Turned Inward? Continuous Traumatic Stress and Social Polarization in Egypt


  • Vivienne Matthies-Boon University of Amsterdam



Egypt, Trauma, Polarization, Injustice, Revenge


Based on 40 life-story testimonies with young Cairene activists, this article argues that post-revolutionary Egypt was marked by Continuous Traumatic Stress (CTS). CTS is a phenomenological term that accounts for the structurally traumatic nature of political repression. It emphasizes the continuing temporality of such pervasive traumatizaton and the structural political stressors that underpin it. CTS thus entails a specifically political conception of trauma, according to which traumatic stress is in fact constituted by a violent, corrupt, unaccountable political and judicial system. This article argues that the traumatic experiences of activists in pre-and post-revolutionary Egypt are best perceived through the lens of CTS. It also insists that such traumatic stress—particularly the lack of justice and formal recourse—provided a fertile breeding ground for revenge and social polarization, which was directly incited by counter-revolutionary actors (such as the military and Muslim Brotherhood leadership), thereby sadly further contributing to the (seemingly endless) continuous cycle of continued traumatic stress.


Vivienne Matthies-Boon, University of Amsterdam

is an Assistant Professor of International Relations of the Middle East at the University of Amsterdam. Her primary interest is in the phenomenology of trauma and counter-revolutionary suffering in Egypt. She has written articles for the Journal of Global Ethics, Journal of North African Studies, and Journal of International Political Theory, amongst others. She has also written for popular outlets such as Aswat Masriya, OpenDemocracy, and MERIP, as well as newspapers. Her forthcoming book Life, Death and Alienation: Counter-Revolutionary Trauma in Egypt will be published by Rowman and Littefield.





Matthies-Boon, V. „Injustice Turned Inward? Continuous Traumatic Stress and Social Polarization in Egypt“. Middle East - Topics & Arguments, Bd. 11, November 2018, S. 89-98, doi:10.17192/meta.2018.11.7807.