Shehata’s first research project focused on working class culture and politics in Egypt. He undertook an ethnography of two Egyptian textile factories, examining class formation at the micro-level — inside the factory — at the point of production. The research adopted a practice-centered theory of social class which highlighted the importance of culture and the symbolic dimensions of class formation. He explored shop floor culture, authority relations in the factory, power and resistance, and the epistemology of ethnographic knowledge production. The most interesting and original aspect of the study was methodological: Shehata worked as a “winding machine operator” in both factories for ten months.
Much of professor Shehata’s current research also focuses on Egyptian politics. He is presently working on projects about Egypt’s first (and only) democratic legislative elections after the January 25, 2011 “revolution,” the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, and regional politics and authoritarianism in the Arab Middle East.