Here is a sneak peek into the Peer-Reviewed Articles Review’s collection of articles dealing with the Arab uprisings! Be sure to check the MESPI Ten Years On module to see the forthcoming complete collection. 

The Development of British Public Diplomacy in the Arab World

By: Ahmed Al-Rawi

Published in Arab Media & Society Issue 29 (2020)

Abstract: This paper attempts to map the major changes and developments of British public diplomacy in the Arab world. I argue here that the BBC and the British Council have greatly assisted British public diplomacy efforts and can be regarded as effective because exerting influence in an indirect way can often be more effective than the direct advocacy approach followed by the British government during the colonial periods. In the beginning, the policy was focused on spreading propaganda, while today it is related to soft power and cultural diplomacy with the active use of social media. The paper concludes with a brief reference to social media use by British embassies in the region following the major Arab Spring events, indicating little audience engagement with them.

The military and the state in Egypt: class formation in the post-Arab uprisings

By: Angela Joya

Published in British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies Volume 47, Issue 5 (2020)

Abstract: Since the revolution of 2011, the Egyptian military has emerged as agent of capital accumulation, engaging with international financial institutions and global investors, and simultaneously reorganizing the various fractions of the ruling class inside Egypt. While the military had established a significant degree of influence in the economy prior to the revolution, it has become increasingly active in the political realm raising alarms about the democratic possibilities in Egypt. While these concerns have been highlighted in the literature, there is still a lack of research that examines how the military has evolved into a dominant economic and political actor in the context of the current global economy. Using class analysis, I reinterpret the military’s role as an emerging dominant fraction of the ruling class under the contemporary phase of neoliberal development. As such, its ascension to power does not signify a threat to economic liberalization, but is rather an attempt to secure the conditions of its further expansion.

Magical realism and metafiction in Post-Arab spring literature: narratives of discontent or celebration?

By: Abida Younas

Published in British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies Volume 47, Issue 4 (2020)

Abstract: My study is an attempt to examine recent developments in post-Arab Spring fiction by Anglo-Arab immigrant authors. Instead of conforming to the traditional narrative modes and strategies, post-Arab Spring literature provides a bitter evaluation of the so-called Arab Spring and deconstructs the revolutionary rhetoric that heralds a new era for the Arab world by producing a counter-narrative. The selected novels, Karim Alrawi’s Book of Sands and Youssef Rakha’s The Crocodiles, use peculiar strategies to portray the fractured and cryptic realities of the Arab world. Written within the framework of realism, utilizing the literary strategies of postmodern literature, these writers unsettle the boundaries of literary genres and give rise to diverse phenomenal trends in Arab fiction. Using magical realism, Alrawi expands the traditional realist narrative style by blending realist elements with magical. By employing metafiction, Rakha formally exhibits the precarious scenario of the Arab world. Drawing on the theory of Magical Realism and Metafiction, these works are investigated in order to emphasize how this new writing reflects the unstable reality of the Arab Spring. While it is too early to discern the characteristics of Post-Arab Spring literature, my research is a contribution to developing a framework in which to do so.

Orientalism and binary discursive representations of Tunisia’s democratization: the need for a “continuity and change” paradigm

By: Hanen Keskes, Alexander P. Martin

Published in British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies Volume 47, Issue 4 (2020)

Abstract: Mainstream analyses of Tunisia’s post-2011 democratic transition have been largely divided along two mutually exclusive narratives. There are those hailing the country as ‘the Arab Spring’s only success story’ on the one hand and those sounding sensationalist alarms about the country’s democratization failure and return to authoritarianism on the other. This is consistent with, and perpetuates, a problematic zero-sum binary in Middle East and North Africa (MENA) scholarship between either a linear democratization process or authoritarian resilience. Furthermore, these reductionist representations highlight the failure of predominant democratization theories to account for the nuances and complexities of democratic transition. This paper critically examines the binary discursive representations of Tunisia’s democratization and explores their underpinning in two competing Orientalisms: the classic Orientalism underscoring an ontological difference (and inferiority) of the ‘Arab world’ to the West, and a liberal civilizing Orientalism which, while acknowledging an ‘essential sameness’ between the West and the ‘Arab world’, places the West as the temporal pinnacle of democracy and the normative monitor of democratic success. This paper thus rejects the binary discursive representations of Tunisia’s transition and advocates for a more nuanced narrative which accounts for the patterns of continuity with and change from authoritarian structures within the democratization process.

Launching Revolution: Social Media and the Egyptian Uprising’s First Movers

By: Killian Clarke, Korhan Kocak

Published in British Journal of Political Science  Volume 50, Issue 3 (2020)

Abstract: Drawing on evidence from the 2011 Egyptian uprising, this article demonstrates how the use of two social media platforms – Facebook and Twitter – contributed to a discrete mobilizational outcome: the staging of a successful first protest in a revolutionary cascade, referred to here as ‘first-mover mobilization’. Specifically, it argues that these two platforms facilitated the staging of a large, nationwide and seemingly leaderless protest on 25 January 2011, which signaled to hesitant but sympathetic Egyptians that a revolution might be in the making. It draws on qualitative and quantitative evidence, including interviews, social media data and surveys, to analyze three mechanisms that linked these platforms to the success of the January 25 protest: (1) protester recruitment, (2) protest planning and coordination, and (3) live updating about protest logistics. The article not only contributes to debates about the role of the Internet in the Arab Spring and other recent waves of mobilization, but also demonstrates how scholarship on the Internet in politics might move toward making more discrete, empirically grounded causal claims.

Threat Perception and Democratic Support in Post-Arab Spring Egypt

By: Shimaa Hatab

Published in Comparative Politics Volume 53, Issue 1 (2020)

Abstract: The article examines the reasons why Egyptian elites and masses withdrew their support for democracy only two years after they staged mass protests calling for regime change in 2011. I draw on basic tenets of bounded rationality and recent advances within the field of cognitive heuristics to demonstrate how cues generated from domestic and regional developments triggered stronger demands for security and stability. Drawing on elite interviews and public opinion surveys, I show how both elites and the masses paid special attention to intense and vivid events which then prompted a demand for the strong man model. Fears of Islamists pushed both elites and masses to update their preferences, seek refuge in old regime bargains, and reinstate authoritarianism.

Gaddafi’s Legacy, Institutional Development, and National Reconciliation in Libya

By: Youssef Mohammad Sawani

Published in Contemporary Arab Affairs Volume 13, Issue 1 (2020)

Abstract: Since the fall of Gaddafi’s forty-two years of rule, Libya has been facing tremendous challenges of instability and insecurity reflecting and characterized by both a political impasse and a lack of legitimate state institutions. Ad-hoc and non-state formations grew outside the legitimate state boundary and became the real actors, polarizing politics and society while rendering any political dialogue ineffective, especially when confined to exclusionary power-sharing arrangements. Official bodies remain weak and divided, while peripheral actors reject/resist submitting to its authority. While acknowledging that the current Libyan crisis is the product of the interaction of several factors including the Islamists and non-Islamist contestation, regional and tribal dimensions, and foreign interventions, this paper concentrates on the effects of the state approach of the Gaddafi era as well as the failure to adopt and implement reconciliation post the 2011 conflict. Therefore, it is argued that the first step towards realizing peace, security, and development is a departure from the current approach and the necessity of bringing in the real players to agree on a roadmap to reclaim the state by launching state-building processes that have national reconciliation as an essential component at their core. State-building cannot be purely a technical exercise of defining, designing, building, or reforming public institutions, while ignoring reconciliation. No matter how successful such technical state-building processes may be, some parts of the population will remain excluded and major segments of the population are likely to remain highly mistrustful of the (new) state and its institutions. Therefore, addressing this gap is central to a transformative approach to state-building that includes reconciliation in which dealing with the Gaddafi legacy is central to preventing future conflict relapse.