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Alice Wilson

Revisiting 'the margins' as an illuminating conceptual space analogous to, yet distinct from, the exception, this article explores the Arab Spring from its margins to highlight 'silencing effects' that, if they underpin the problematic notions of the Arab Spring and Arab exceptionalism, assume spectacular dimensions at the margins, namely, the 'disappearance' of an uprising. The disputed territory of Western Sahara, partially annexed by Morocco since 1975, saw an unprecedented uprising in October-November 2010. Annexed Western Sahara's uprising narrowly preceded Tunisia's, conventionally recognized as the first of the Arab Spring. Despite Sahrawis' perceptions of similarities between their uprising and the Arab Spring, Western Sahara's uprising is overlooked in most analyses of the Arab Spring. 'Silencing effects' obscure these similarities and, ultimately, the uprising itself.

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Gilberto Conde

This article looks back at the 2011 Arab Spring where the movements that brought hope to the region and beyond seem to have gone astray. The military has taken over in Egypt, while Libya, Syria and Yemen have descended into civil strife with tremendous human costs. Bahrain has witnessed repression that has overwhelmed the opposition, and while Tunisia, the country where Arab Spring began, has avoided the violence characterizing the aforementioned states, change has remained rather limited. As for other countries that rode on the same wave of mobilizations, hopes for democratic transformation have been subdued in somewhat less violent contexts but with varying degrees of pressure from the state. This article examines what has happened to the Arab Spring countries, why and what is required to democratically transform the region.

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Edmund Ratka

In the midst of the European Union’s (EU) unprecedented crisis and a

rapidly changing international environment, Germany is redefining its

place in Europe and in the world. Long-cherished certainties such as a

staunch commitment to European integration and to its Western allies in

general seem being called into question. Critics like the former Chancellor

Helmut Kohl or the historian Heinrich August Winkler deplore a missing

compass and “politics without a project.”1 Against this background, this

article analyses the German policy toward an issue that forcefully marked

the year 2011 and continues to transform North Africa and the Middle

East—the so-called “Arab Spring”.

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Carmen Maganda and Harlan Koff

In the editorial note of the first issue of Regions & Cohesion, we directly asked ourselves and our readers: What role do people play in regional integration processes? Regions have, indeed, developed in different ways and for different reasons. One of the main questions behind the mission of this journal asks: Are territories serving their citizens, or do citizens serve the needs of expanding territories and interconnected markets?

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The Enigma of Mobility

Reflections on the Arab Revolutions

Frank Uekoetter

This article makes a first attempt at outlining the place of the ongoing arab revolution in modern history, with special attention to its significance to mobility studies. taking issue with readings that emphasize the roots of the revolt in islam or the arab world, it stresses the economic background of the grievance, and specifically the elusive hope for social mobility in the countries' youth. it also highlights the crucial role of networking activities, both face-to- face and online, in creating the momentum that led to toppling of powerful regimes in Egypt and tunisia. The article seeks to demonstrate how mobility studies can highlight the peculiar challenges that both countries are currently facing. By way of conclusion, it shows how the case at hand forces us to think more about the mind of mobility, and more broadly about the ambitions and theoretical promises that the field of mobility studies should embrace.

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The Silent Spring

Why Pro-democracy Activity Was Avoided in Gulf Nations during the Arab Spring

Charles Mitchell, Juliet Dinkha and Aya Abdulhamid

This article explores the Arab Spring uprisings that started in late 2010, and investigates why pro-democracy movements were circumvented in most Gulf Cooperation Council countries. Our research is qualitative in nature, and looks into the antecedents of the revolts in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Algeria, and Yemen to ascertain why revolutionary activity was precluded in Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Oman. Through the utilization of academic research, news sources, governmental, intergovernmental organization, and international nongovernmental organization reports and policy papers, we conclude that the generous allocations of public goods and the extant and reactive government policies during the Arab Spring period successfully preempted revolutionary activities in the Gulf. In this article, we also examine the only Gulf country outlier, Bahrain, by investigating what policies and conditions led to outbreaks of large-scale pro-democracy demonstrations in that nation.

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Debate

Religion and Revolution

Mark Juergensmeyer, Sidharthan Maunaguru, Jonathan Spencer and Charles Lindholm

For some decades, the religious rebellion of the late-twentieth and early-twenty-first centuries was characterized by political violence, terrorism, and strident rhetoric. Then in 2011, the events collectively known as Arab Spring seemed to offer a new model: mass movements leading to democratic reform and electoral change. The elections of 2012 swept religious parties and leadership into office in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya. Is this the face of the future of religious rebellion around the world?

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Politics, Consumption, or Nihilism

Protest and Disorder after the Global Crash

Bob Jeffery, Joseph Ibrahim and David Waddington

The years since the onset of global recession, circa 2008, have led to an unprecedented rise in discontent in societies around the world. Whether this be the Arab Spring of 2011 when popular uprisings against authoritarian regimes cascaded across North Africa and the Middle East, or the rise of left-wing, anti-capitalist and far-right movements in the developed 'north', ranging from the Indignados in Spain, Syriza and the Golden Dawn in Greece, Le Front National in France, student movements in Quebec, or the allegedly less articulate explosion of rage characterizing the English Riots of 2011, it is clear that Fukuyama's thesis regarding the final ascendency of liberal capitalism (and its puppet regimes in the developing world) was grossly misplaced. In Badiou's (2012) terms we are witnessing 'the rebirth of history', where all bets regarding the trajectories of local and global political economies are off.

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Flying above Bloodshed

Performative Protest in the Scared City of Damascus

Ziad Adwan

Syrian activists adopted the flying demonstration protest form in 2011 during the Arab Spring. A flying demonstration occurs for a few minutes, and then the demonstrators run away. Protestors mainly chose this form to avoid deadly confrontations with the regime’s secret police. This article examines how flying demonstrations challenged the Syrian state’s media allegations that no demonstrations were taking place. Action, spectatorship, aftermath, and catharsis were key concepts from the theater and performance fields that allowed Syrian activists to intensify the demonstrations and achieve certainty, making flying demonstrations a consistent phenomenon in the capital, Damascus. I analyze the flying demonstrations theories brought from Richard Schechner’s performance theory and Augusto Boal’s invisible theater. Although demonstrators were not considering theater during their protests, I conclude that flying demonstrations’ theatrical characteristics were essential to making this phenomenon visually compelling, encouraging more participation, and, to some extent, guaranteeing safety during deadly Syrian events.

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Reforming universities in the Middle East

Trends and contestations from Egypt and Jordan

Daniele Cantini

This article addresses the core-periphery nexus by looking at some of the reform packages proposed in the 2000s in these two pivotal countries in the Middle East, Egypt and Jordan, as well as the resistances they generated. These reform packages include internationalisation and privatisation policies, as well as World Bank–sponsored programmes intended to enhance the higher education sector. These programmes are marked by a high degree of isomorphism with global trends: they belong to an unquestioned centre, with peripheries as receiving points of policies elaborated elsewhere. In this article, I examine some of the resistances they were met with in Egypt and Jordan and show how their translations were shaped by the logics of the local contexts so that they were rarely implemented. Looking at post–Arab Spring developments, the article reflects on the continuity of reform packages amidst political turmoil, and the ways in which these reforms are altering or reinforcing processes of peripheralisation.