The Arab world was shaken in 2011 by a series of popular movements, collectively known as the ‘Arab spring(s)’, that have challenged long established authoritarian regimes. What will be the medium and long term impacts of these uprisings? Who is driving (and contesting) change, and what kind of change is being sought? This study addresses these issues in the context of the contested transitions in Tunisia and Egypt.

It is based on the following premise: for these uprisings to deliver on their potential will require transformative change that emphasises local agency and resources, the prioritization of process rather than pre-conceived outcomes, and the challenging of unequal power relationships and structures of exclusion. Such change is here named transformative justice.

The study’s aim is to analyse the agendas of those driving and contesting change using an actor-oriented perspective. Field research about ‘drivers of change’ – agents, formal and informal institutions, structures – and the four key areas of contestation (elections, constitutions, transitional justice, economic policy), will provide insights to local understandings of transformation and agendas for change. Actors interviewed will be as follows: the old political guard, military and police, economic and judicial elites, Islamic groups, youth, women, human rights organisations, trade and labour unions, and the urban and rural poor.

A large interview data set (over 700 interviews) will be complemented by focus groups and basic quantitative analysis. The research will look at changing attitudes over time (conducting two sets of interviews, one year apart) and document a range of voices and perspectives (urban/rural, supporters/opponents of the revolutions). The core research team will consist of the PI, Co-I, Senior Researcher and Local Research Co-ordinator. Two periods of one month each have been allocated for training and interviewing – the full research team will be led by a core team, but also include two PhD students and 10 local researchers. An international Advisory Board will provide strategic direction to the project and participate in the researcher training.

The research represents a partnership between a White Rose (Universities of Leeds, Sheffield, York) and Worldwide Universities Network (WUN) research collaboration on transformative justice on the one hand, and the American University in Cairo (AUC) on the other.

The research project begins in January 2014 and will run for three years.