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The Geosemiotics of Tahrir Square

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Abstract

[The year 2011 saw unprecedented waves of people occupying key locations around the world in a statement of public discontent. In Egypt, the protests which took place between 25 January and 11 February 2011 culminating in the ouster of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak have now come to be known as the Egyptian Revolution. Media reporting of the revolution often portrayed it as a ‘spectacle’ playing out on the stage of Tahrir Square which was dubbed ‘the symbolic heart of the Egyptian revolution’. Tahrir Square quickly became a space serving various functions and layered with an array of meanings. This chapter explores the relationship between the discourse of protest messages and the space of Tahrir Square during the January 25 revolution, demonstrating how the two were mutually reinforcing. The messages are drawn from a corpus of approximately 2000 protest messages captured in Tahrir Square between 25 January and 11 February 2011. The analysis is presented in the form of six conceptualising frames for the space of Tahrir Square which take into account both its geographical and social context. The conceptualisation draws from the field of geosemiotics, which posits that all discourses are ‘situated’ both in space and time (Scollon & Scollon 2003), and on the Lefebvrian principles of the production of space which provide a useful framework for interpreting urban space (Lefebvre 1991)., The year 2011 saw unprecedented waves of people occupying key locations around the world in a statement of public discontent. In Egypt, the protests which took place between 25 January and 11 February 2011 culminating in the ouster of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak have now come to be known as the Egyptian Revolution. Media reporting of the revolution often portrayed it as a ‘spectacle’ playing out on the stage of Tahrir Square which was dubbed ‘the symbolic heart of the Egyptian revolution’. Tahrir Square quickly became a space serving various functions and layered with an array of meanings. This chapter explores the relationship between the discourse of protest messages and the space of Tahrir Square during the January 25 revolution, demonstrating how the two were mutually reinforcing. The messages are drawn from a corpus of approximately 2000 protest messages captured in Tahrir Square between 25 January and 11 February 2011. The analysis is presented in the form of six conceptualising frames for the space of Tahrir Square which take into account both its geographical and social context. The conceptualisation draws from the field of geosemiotics, which posits that all discourses are ‘situated’ both in space and time (Scollon & Scollon 2003), and on the Lefebvrian principles of the production of space which provide a useful framework for interpreting urban space (Lefebvre 1991).]

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