Based on analysis of scholarly and primary sources that include July 2011 and January and February 2014 fieldwork in Cairo, this article examines civil as a word with multiple synchronic meanings and shifts in valence in Egypt between January 2011 and July 2013. I argue that civil stood as a rhetorical placeholder in a time with few secure ideological positions, little agreement about the content of the good society, and wide recognition of the enormity of obstacles to transformation. The article draws on Jacques Rancière's understandings of “politics” and “police” to examine sensibilities and relations of transgression and control that work on and through bodies, intimacies, and meanings of the civil. Among the essential lessons of the 2011 Arab revolutions is that ideological differences and material inequalities do not easily melt, even in emergent, pluralistic, and nondoctrinaire revolutionary politics, because it is difficult to erase positional and embodied differences in the scenes where politics are made.

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