One should not dismiss show trials, special tribunals, revolutionary courts, or people's courts as meaningless spectacles of state propaganda with little historical, political, and judicial value. This is the main message of Yoram Meital's exciting new book and it is especially valid in Egypt, where the political and judicial realities of the post-2011 revolution echo those of the early 1950s, with a similar drive toward juridical exceptionalism. Since 2011 many have asked what is the reason for the degradation of liberal norms and the resort to the “exception”? Why the parallels after seventy years? I will return to the issue of the “state of exception” as a possible conceptual model for understanding the Egyptian republican tradition of law and institutional justice later, but before doing so a word is in order about the history of early Nasserism to which the book is a critical contribution.

Scholars, pundits, and observers have...

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