Call for Papers


The Unfinished Project of the Arab Spring: Why “Middle East Exceptionalism” is Still Wrong

University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada
September 25-27, 2015

Ali, Tariq
Bennoune, Karima
Wadud, Amina

Four years after the recent revolutions/social movements (2011-12) in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), the region is caught between a number of rocks and many hard places. The rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the return of a military regime in Egypt, the breakout of proxy/civil war in Syria and Yemen, and the chaos and collapse of the Libyan polity have largely replaced hope with despair, and excitement with resentment. Is the Middle East exceptionally immune to democratic movements, values and institutions? 

This interdisciplinary international conference is an attempt to examine why and how the MENA region is not immune to democratic social movements. We propose that these revolutions were indicative of deep-rooted socio-cultural and structural transformations in contemporary MENA; they symbolized a popular quest for human dignity, social justice and freedom. The genie is out of the bottle and more progressive changes have yet to come. The contemporary social movements in MENA are open-ended and unfinished projects.

The conference and the subsequent publications aim to study these movements and their aftermath with an eye to the socio-political opportunities and potentials for progressive change they left behind. We will examine the local, regional and global impediments to grassroots democracy in the region. We will problematize the impact of global and regional politics, political economy, post-colonial condition, and socio-cultural factors – gender, ethnicity, class, and religion – on the rise and the current crisis of contemporary social movements in the region. The conference is an attempt for theorizing/problematizing these uprisings and imagining an alternative perspective for the future of popular and progressive social movements in the MENA region.

Paper proposals may address, but are not limited to, one or more of the following themes:

  1. “The Quiet Encroachment” of the counterrevolutionary forces: Why are the ancient forces coming back?
  2. Social Movements in MENA: Is the “Return of the Repressed” Possible?
  3. What the liberal and the Left-wing forces could have done to prevent the crisis?
  4. Problematizing the faults and failure of Islamist forces in MENA social movements
  5. The myth and reality of Army as a “midwife” of MENA social movements
  6. Is the “Post-Islamist turn” over? 
  7. Are contemporary social movements in MENA open-ended/unfinished projects?
  8. “Muslim/Middle East Exceptionalism”, Islamophobia and the West: Past and present
  9. Impact of global/regional politics on the rise and crisis of MENA social movements
  10. Political economy of MENA social movements (The Arab Spring, Iran’s Green Movement, the Gezi Park in Turkey)
  11. Political economy of Islamism
  12. Gendering MENA social Movements: The question of women, LGTB, etc.   
  13. MENA social movements and minorities (religious, ethnic, etc.)
  14. Postcolonial critique of the implementation of R2P in Libya
  15. Postcolonial critique of the rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria

Abstract Submission

Please send abstracts (200-300 words) along with a short biography (100 words) to: <>. Please include the title of your paper, your name and affiliation. Submissions are due by June 01, 2015. Selected proposals will be notified by June 15, 2015.

Edited Volume

A selection of papers presented at the conference will be published in a peer-reviewed edited volume by a prestigious press. We do welcome original research and contributions on the themes of the conference from various academic disciplines.

A final draft of selected papers is to be submitted within two months after the conference – December 01, 2015.


Should you have any questions or require more information, please contact us at: <>


Cover photo by Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images