pp 1–10 | Cite as

Contours of Cairo Revolt: Street Semiology, Values and Political Affordances

  • Matthew CrippenEmail author


This article contemplates symbols and values inscribed on Cairo’s landscape during the 2011 revolution and the period since, focusing on Tahrir Square and the role of the Egyptian flag in street discourses there. I start by briefly pondering how intertwined popular narratives readied the square and flag as emblems of dissent. Next I examine how these appropriations shaped protests in the square, and how military authorities who retook control in 2013 re-coopted the square and flag, with the reabsorption of each critical to that of the other and executed in the same place: Tahrir. Pro-military factions have created the pretense that they were for the revolution by altering the square and structures around it. Furthermore, the square has remained open to the public, but ceased to be inviting. This relates to post-revolutionary alterations that psychologically repel entry. I consider these changes in light of affordance theory, value sensitive design research and especially the defensible space model, arguing that Tahrir Square has been symbolically cordoned and closed.


Affordances Arab Spring Cairo Defensible space Politics Protest Revolution Semiology Tahrir Square Value sensitive design 



I would like to acknowledge Farida Youssef for her assistance on historical portions of this paper. I would also like to thank Shane Epting, Jules Simon and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful feedback.


No funding received.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Matthew Crippen declares no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

No human or non-human animals employed


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Berlin School of Mind and BrainHumboldt University of BerlinBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Grand Valley State UniversityAllendaleUSA

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