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Street trading in the Arab Spring

Street traders in post-revolution Cairo and Tunis faced many challenges. This research examined whether  unrest and insecurity made trading  more precarious, or whether the uprising brought a new legitimacy to trading.

This project explored the impact on traders of protests in Tunis and that toppled regimes in both countries. It examined the capacity and willingness of new regimes to accom-modate street trading, and sought to explore whether the insecurity of trading was heightened following the unrest, or whether regime change and  open-ness to debate brought legitimacy to trading.

The research analysed the cultural and political constraints and legislative challenges faced by the new regimes in accommodating street trading, making contributions to theory and debates on legal empowerment of the poor, right to the city and control of public space, and urban livelihoods. The research was based on field visits to Egypt in September 2012, and Tunisia in February 2013, and interviewed in four contested locations in each city, where traders lacked legal protection.The Arab revolutions of 2011, which spread throughout the Middle East and North Africa, were sparked by the death of a Tunisian street vendor. This sad event sparked a public outcry for democratic reform in Tunisia that spread throughout North Africa and the Middle East. In Tunisia it precipitated the downfall of President Ben Ali of Tunisia, and unrest quickly spread to Cairo, where up to 300,000 protestors occupied Tahrir Square leading to removal of President Mubarak.

The project found mixed outcomes, with limited tolerance for street trading and new actors moving into ungoverned space, which further marginalised poor urban street traders, highlighting a gap in knowledge about the dynamics of post-conflict informal economies.

Funder

British Academy, Project SG111249 (2011-2013)

People

  • Professor Alison Brown, Cardiff University
  • Professor Michal Lyons, London South Bank University
  • Professor Adnane Hayder, Faculté des sciences humaines et sociales de Tunis
  • Dr Nezar Kafafy, Cairo University
  • Annali Kristiansen, Lawyer from the Danish Institute of Human Rights