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Open access

Being There

The 2013 Anti-Government Protests in Istanbul, Turkey

Colin W. Leach, Ayşe Betül Çelik, Rezarta Bilali, Atilla Cidam, and Andrew L. Stewart

By happenstance, we found ourselves in Istanbul, Turkey in early June 2013 only days after a mass anti-government protest developed in and around Gezi Park. In addition to informal discussions and interviews with academics and others, we visited the protest site and traveled throughout Istanbul to directly experience the atmosphere and events. We also conducted two studies of Turks’ participation in, and views of, the protests. This paper recounts the events in Istanbul that summer and reviews our own, and other, social science research on the protests and the protestors. We focus on who the protestors were and why they protested, as opposed to the less engaged actions of visiting the protests or following them in the media.

Open access

The Boy on the Beach

The Fragility of Canada's Discourses on the Syrian Refugee "Crisis

Petra Molnar

The contours of Canadian refugee policies have in recent years fluctuated from a narrative of 'bogus' refugees requiring a tough approach of interdiction to one of urgent humanitarian assistance. These rapid discursive shifts highlight the fragility of how Canada's humanitarian responses, and its place in the world, are conceptualized. Using the case study of Canada's responses to the Syrian conflict, this short paper argues that state responses must be critically interrogated in order to move away from homogenizing narratives grounded in tropes such as ‘fear’, ‘floods’ and ‘crisis’, which continue to impact how state, media, and public discourse handle the influx of refugees. Examining how the Canadian state performs its sovereignty in response to the Syrian conflict is instructive to reveal its broader nation-building projects, ones which utilize particular tropes of fear to justify suspicion and exclusion of bodies that have been cast as dangerous and uncontrollable. While Canada is once again presenting itself as a global leader in refugee and human rights issues, it remains to be seen whether these more humane policies can withstand the continuing millennial border anxieties of the West when facing the prospect of resettling increasingly large numbers of refugees.

Open access

Civil Societies and Uncivil Times

The Rubber Band Ball of Transnational Tensions

Brian Callan

This article introduces a special issue of Contention Journal addressing various contemporary mobilizations of civil society in response to the war in Syria and the migration of refugees into Europe. With contributions from Turkey, Israel, Lebanon, Canada, the Czech Republic and Germany, the cases represent a breadth of multidisciplinary approaches and a variety of stylistic standpoints, from statistical media analysis to troubled personal reflections of engaged activist academics. The subject matter ranges from political mobilization against authoritarianism and austerity, transnational philanthropy, the emergence of local grassroots voluntary aid to right-wing populist nationalism. Though diverse, a coherent narrative is seen to converge around the refugee crisis as it unfolds in Europe; one of radical polarization within civil societies and starkly conflicting imaginaries of social futures that claim to preclude the legitimacy of other possibilities. At the same time alliances are being generated beyond borders in an attempt to bolster ideological capacity, authority, and force. This is not a clash of civilizations but the rubber band ball of transnational tension, a strained, chaotic and overlapping global contestation. At stake is the understanding of what a civil society should be.

Open access

Ecolaw Now!

Toward a Generative Understanding of Legal Culture, from Law-as-Pillar to Law-as-Tree

Luigi Russi

A Review of Fritjof Capra and Ugo Mattei, The Ecology of Law: Toward a Legal System in Tune with Nature and Community, Oakland, CA, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2015, ISBN: 978-1- 62-656206-6, 216 pages.

Open access

Society against Politics

Exclusions from Israel's #J14 Movement

Callie Maidhof

In the summer of 2011, a movement known by the hashtag #J14 swept across Israel. At height of #J14, thousands of people were camped out in tents on Tel Aviv’s swanky Rothschild Boulevard, and smaller encampments peppered the green space of nearly every city in Israel. The Saturday night protests in Tel Aviv drew upwards of 300,000 people, who made a broad call for “social justice,” with specific demands focusing on skyrocketing housing prices, health care, childcare, and the overall high cost of living. Notably absent were any demands addressing the myriad of issues facing non-Jewish citizens of Israel, as well as the question of the ongoing occupation. In this article, I will consider the #J14 movement in terms of how civil society operates as an ideological construct, making possible some alliances (however counterintuitive) while excluding others from public debate all together. Following Mamdani’s argument that civil society as a concept is premised on exclusionary practices, I argue that mobilization in the name of civil society will not only reproduce these exclusions, but also widen the gap between those who do and do not receive crucial state services.

Open access

Squatted Social Centers in London

Temporary Nodes of Resistance to Capitalism

E.T.C. Dee

This article assesses squatted social centers in London as a means to understand the cycles, contexts and institutionalization processes of the local squatters movement. This diffuse social movement had its heyday in the late 1970s and early 1980s when there were 30,000 squatters and still exists today despite squatting in residential buildings being criminalized in 2012. Analysis is based on a database of 245 social centers, which are examined in terms of duration, time period, type of building and location. Important centers are briefly profiled and important factors affecting the squatters movement are examined, in particular institutionalization, gentrification, and criminalisation.

Open access

Syrian Diasporans as Transnational Civil Society Actors

Perspectives from a Network for Refugee Assistance

Shawn Teresa Flanigan and Mounah Abdel-Samad

This article presents early qualitative data from an ongoing project that includes interviews with members of a Syrian diaspora network engaged in giving and receiving philanthropy. With the onset of the Syrian refugee crisis, the network began to provide education for displaced Syrian children in Lebanon in addition to its other activities. The purpose of the research project is to understand motivations and mechanisms of humanitarian assistance toward a conflict region, and also if and how the practice of philanthropy is tied to peacebuilding on the ground and individuals’ sense of political efficacy. This article gives particular attention to the civil society aspects of diasporan assistance, and how those engaged in humanitarian aid conceive of their influence on politics, policy, and peacebuilding.

Open access

Tareq Al-Sham (The Road to Damascus)

Syrian Refugees, Lebanese Society, and Unsettled Problems

Emily Regan Wills

This article departs from standard academic style to address the implications of the Syrian refugee crisis for Lebanon’s civil society, particularly with regard for solidarity across difference and the always-troubled Syria/Lebanon relationship. I adopt this style because the consequences and unfolding changes to Lebanese civil society and political practice driven by the Syrian crisis are still in progress, have uncertain outcomes, and are in a state of constant flux. The same must be said of my own knowledge and understanding of this situation, as I continue to engage in fieldwork and dialogue with actors on the ground. This article is the product of my particular place as an ethnographer at the beginning of what is likely to be years of study, as an outsider entering into a new country and city, as a policy actor with a higher education initiative for Syrian refugees and host community members in Beirut, and as an American-Canadian binational uninterested in sharpening distinctions between ‘there’ and ‘here’, neither in my own understanding nor in my scholarship. Because of the unsettled nature of the analysis in this piece, I have chosen not to arrange it as an argument supporting a single thesis. Instead, I have interwoven sections from my fieldnotes, particularly those from my trip to Beirut in May 2015, with sections that lay out, in a less personal format, the context, and elements that collectively helped shape the situation as it stands. My goal is to both document the dynamics of anxiety and rejection that surround the refugee crisis in Lebanon—where refugees are demonized in the press, targeted through bylaws aimed at ‘foreigners,’ and by denying access to basic services. My aim is to understand how the intertwined elements of Lebanese and Syrian history and politics have are creating this moment. At a time when societies around the world are gripped with fear and panic, how can the microcosm of the crisis in Lebanon give us insight into the development of xenophobic anxieties in our own societies? How does Lebanon’s proximity to the Syrian crisis make its experience reflective of global responses to uncivil times?

Open access

Volunteering as Protest

Against State Failure or the State Itself?

Jan Křeček

Although the Czech Republic (CR) is not a favorite destination nor even a transit country for migrants through Europe, the refugee crisis has materialized into a strict state policy of rejection. The CR rejects proposals for European solutions and detains and imprisons immigrants, most of whom are inadvertently arrived there. This preliminary refusal strategy is peculiar to both the political and media spheres (and public opinion) and is described in the opening sections of this work. However, the CR, is also a country in which the tally of immigrants is less than the number of Czechs citizens traveling beyond their national borders to help refugees congregating along the “Balkan Route”, where they frequently outnumber volunteers from other countries. This paper goes on to describe the development of these grassroots Czech volunteer organizations and activities in 2015. From the beginning it was characterized by spontaneity and a lack of hierarchy, with the Internet and social media playing a vital role during mobilization and organization. The methodological section defines how this sample was analyzed and the manner in which it was dealt. Section five summarizes the most important findings of the case study: (1) the results of a questionnaire survey among volunteers, (2) the results of a qualitative content analysis of their communication in social networks. Besides basic mapping steps (features of volunteer’s participation), the analysis attempts to capture motivations for volunteer’s participation. Comparison with selected motivation typologies emphasizes the protective (later the normative) motivation, on which the hypotheses are based regarding the dispute about the national identity of volunteering as an ideological, and therefore foreseeable, dispute.

Open access

"Wir Sind Das Volk"

Narrative Identity and the Other in the Discourse of the PEGIDA Movement

Adrian Paukstat and Cedric Ellwanger

PEGIDA, the self-proclaimed ‘Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the Occident’ movement is a highly debated topic in Germany. Over the course of the refugee crisis it has become clear that this movement would not perish as quickly as many analysts thought. The authors investigated PEGIDA's narrative identity (Ricoeur 2005) in relation to their conceptions of Self and Other, using Keller's (2008) Sociology of Knowledge Approach to Discourse (SKAD). In this, the authors utilize discourse-related paradigms to reconstruct subject positions and narrative identities, as articulated in public speeches and commentary of PEDGIDA supporters in 2014-5. Beyond the issue of PEGIDA itself, this study aims to introduce new paradigms on collective political identity, which can also shed new light on the issue of populist movements in a time of a legitimacy crisis of the European Union and the growing numbers seeking refuge in Europe.