Atef practiced human rights law as an attorney in Egypt from 1995 to 2004, and wrote two books about torture in Egypt. His research interests are sociology of social movements and revolutions, sociology of the state and of law, sociology of colonialism and empire. He is a now a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, writing his dissertation about the Egyptian revolution of 2011. In the dissertation, based on ethnographic and archival materials, he investigates the power of Tahrir Square in the revolution, with a special focus on the role of space in revolutions and social movements. He is currently a Visiting Scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago.