Following the revolts that unseated Hosni Mubarak in February 2011, a contradictory discourse has emerged in which Egyptians imagine themselves to be resilient in body and spirit but also enfeebled by years of political corruption and state negligence. During the mass protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the regime’s orchestrated violence neither crushed the movement nor provoked activists to abandon their vow of peaceful protest. However, Egyptians’ pride in the physical and moral resilience that enabled this feat is infused with an understanding of its fragility; many face vulnerabilities to disease within the context of environmental toxins, malnutrition, and a broken, overtaxed health care system. And they mourn the deterioration of moral principles and values after years of brutal oppression and social injustice. These conflicting views—of vitality and vulnerability—have led to a dizzying oscillation between optimism and despair; even as people celebrate the accomplishments of the uprisings, they are also keenly aware of the formidable challenges that lie ahead.
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