Panel 7

Panel 7: Finished or Unfinished Social Movements? Is the Return of the Repressed Possible?
Bessma Momani & Melissa Finn

Title: Circularity of Arabs and the Arab Spring

Abstract: The Arab Spring reminds us that Arab world is changing from within – thanks to its youth who are pushing it to become a more competitive, accountable and cosmopolitan society – and the so-called global “rise of the rest” includes the Arab world. As the globe becomes increasingly interconnected via new social networks, rapid mobility and new modes of exchanging ideas, Arab youth will participate in and benefit from this new world order in many, and sometimes unexpected, ways. Youth activism was most evident in the Arab Spring, but these causal mechanisms of transmitting revolutionary and progressive ideas remain active within and beyond the region. With increased transnationalism, the influences of the West in the Arab region and the impact of Arab and Muslim identities on Western societies cannot be ignored. After all, the Arab region is, as we have seen, a growing source for Western immigration. What is more, Arab students are flocking to learn in Western universities. What these youth learn abroad and take home with them is a valuable part of understanding the future trajectory of their societies. More and more Arabs now hold dual citizenship, particularly from the Western world; and Arab communities in Europe and the Americas are increasing their ties to the Arab region. This circularity of people offers new ways of studying political revolution and social movements that are increasingly transnational. For example, based on primary research, it was found that many Canadian Arab youth reported that they participated in the Arab Spring uprisings; nearly 85% of respondents had in some way contributed to the Arab Spring, thorough signing online protests or petitions, posting videos or images online, tweeting, blogging, and participating in opposition movements against Arab governments. This paper seeks to address what is the regional impact of the large émigré of Arabs who are agents of circularity after the Arab Spring. I argue that the Arab émigré, workers, and students will take advantage of circularity and remit important progressive ideas and values that will continue to shape the Arab region, despite the ‘setbacks’ of the Arab Spring.

Bio: Dr. Bessma Momani is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Waterloo and the Balsillie School of International Affairs, a Senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance and Innovation (CIGI), and a 2015 Fellow of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation. She has been Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., a Canada-US Fulbright Scholar, Visiting Scholar at Georgetown University’s Mortara Center, and Visiting Scholar at the Amman Institute in Jordan. She has authored and co-edited over eight books and over 55 scholarly, peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters that have examined the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, petrodollars, regional trade agreements in the Middle East and economic liberalization throughout the Arab Gulf and the Middle East. Dr. Momani has received a number of Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council awards and prizes for her research on global economic governance and political economy of the Middle East. She is a regular media contributor to CBC radio and is a Middle East analyst on CTV News, CBC’s The National, Al-Jazeera English, Bloomberg TV, Business News Network (BNN) and TVO’s the Agenda. She has written for the New York Times, The Economist, The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, The Ottawa Citizen, and many other reputable international newspapers.

Melissa Finn is a postdoctoral fellow at the Balsillie School of International Affairs and Department of Political Science at the University of Waterloo and . She is an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Political Science at Wilfrid Laurier University. Finn specializes in issues related to contemporary terrorism and its impact upon society, and is the author of Al-Qaeda and Sacrifice: Martyrdom, War and Politics (London: Pluto Press, 2012).

Paul Rowe

Title: Finished or Unfinished? The Uncertain Future of Christians in the Middle East

Abstract: Over the past decade, Christian populations in the Middle East have undergone severe trials, leading to the dramatic acceleration of their displacement and exile. Ancient Christian communities in Syria and Iraq have fled to safe havens within and outside their home countries. In Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and among the Palestinians, Christians also face numerous pressures. The departure of Christians from the Middle East undermines pluralism in a region transformed by demands for change. If the health of pluralism is measured by the Christian exodus, is there hope for the future of reform? In spite of the ambivalence of established church hierarchies and elites, many Christians participated in the Egyptian and Syrian Arab Spring protests. In the period of transition that ensued, Copts pursued pluralist strategies to represent their interests. These and similar efforts in Syria and Jordan quickly came to a halt with the collapse of Syria into civil war and the overthrow of Mohamed Morsi in Egypt in summer 2013. The crisis brought about by the ISIS takeover of northern Syria and Iraq in summer 2014 has forced Christians into organizing merely to survive in small sanctuaries or in exile. Arab Christians seeking to represent their interests are left with few options. The Arab Spring highlighted the possibility of a new pluralist form of representation, only to be dashed by destabilization. Most Arab regimes continue to seek neo-millet elite bargains with Christian leaders, which gain support among Christians fearful of a return to chaotic democratic transition. Even so, a struggling Christian civil society seeks the modernization of entrenched sectarian relationships. The unfinished project of the Arab Spring is the expansion of their opportunity to organize and celebrate their differences through civil activism and community engagement. This paper will survey Christian responses to the past four years of crisis to map the future of Christian interest representation.

Bio: Paul S. Rowe is Associate Professor of Political and International Studies at Trinity Western University and senior research fellow with the Religion, Culture, and Conflict Research Group. He completed his PhD in Political Science at McGill University in 2003. His research interests surround the politics of religion in developing countries and at the global level. He has also written extensively on the politics of Christian minority communities in Middle Eastern states. Dr. Rowe is the author of Religion and Global Politics (Oxford University Press Canada, 2012), and co-editor of Christians and the Middle East Conflict (Routledge UK, 2014) and Politics and the Religious Imagination (Routledge UK, 2010).

Maria D’Aria

Title: Social Movements in MENA: Is the “Return of the Repressed” Possible?

Abstract: During the Egyptian military coup in 2013, social movements were considered as a passive actor unable to oppose either the army intervention or the restoration of the ancient regime. This project, instead, examines the active role of social movements as part of counter revolutionary forces. Contrary to the main literature that looks at the counter-revolution as a top down process, this project argues that social movements like Tamorrod (Rebellion) and Revolutionary Socialists facilitate the military intervention. This paper highlights why and how these movements were proto democratic, not pro-democratic: They interpreted the army as the saviour of the ‘revolution’, not as a component of Mubarak’s regime. The paper provides an alternative perspective to the Egyptian uprisings of 2011 and 2013.

Bio: Maria D’Aria is a PhD candidate at School of Social and Political Science at the University of Edinburgh.

Hajar Amidian

Title: Instances of Political Reform within a Rentier Economy: The Case of Iran

Abstract: Does natural resource wealth promote authoritarianism and construct states immune to democratic social movements? The key to understanding this relation is to investigate the political incentives produced by resource “rents”. My research attempts to advance the understanding of the correlation between the rentier state and authoritarianism in post- revolutionary Iran. I will examine and problematize the literature on rentier state theory through a critical study of the political economy of the country, specifically in the administration of Khatami (1997-2005). The 1997 election of Khatami provided a political opportunity for change and an opening recognized as the revival of the student movement after the revolution. To understand how a state “cursed by oil revenues” could experience instances of uprising and demand for change we need a rigorous typology that can describe indicators of authoritarianism in Iran. Hence, I will specifically investigate state structure, policy configuration, legitimization processes, and privatization strategies in Iran during 1979-2005 to trace signs of what Stephen J. King calls new authoritarianism in the Middle East. Investigating these four elements that synthesize both the political structure and the socioeconomic relations of consumers and collectors of rent, will offer a clearer depiction of change within continuity in the Islamic Republic.

Bio: Hajar Amidian is a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of Alberta. The working title of her thesis is: “Rentier State and Authoritarianism: A Critical Study of Post-Revolutionary Iran”. She holds a M.A in North American Studies and a B.A in English Language and Literature from the University of Tehran, Iran.

Poyraz Kolluoglu

Title: The Gezi Commune: The Harbinger of the “Newest Social movements” or a Flash in the Pan in the History of Late Capitalism?

Abstract: As a non-aligned eco-protester, I was involved in the early, embryonic phase of the Gezi protests in May 27 2013 Istanbul. Fueled by genuine affects and moral shocks this small resistance in the park, I would argue, evolved into a massive insurrection that spread like a wildfire to almost every city of the country. This eruption from below succeeded to create a carnivalesque, temporary autonomous zone in this symbolically significant space immediately following the energy unleashed by direct action. A commune of the multitude, I would suggest, emerged as a result of the insurrection and survived for the first two weeks of June. It was based on a cross-cultural alliance that was cemented by feelings of solidarity.

There is growing vibrant academic literature on the events. Some of those texts reflect on the neoliberal authoritarianism and the logic of securitarian state in Turkey that manifested itself during the events. Similarly, some approaches do locate the movement as a recent example of the anti-globalization struggles of 21st century, thus offering a comparative perspective and emphasizing the changing democratic-liberal dynamics that resonate with middle class structures. Interestingly, some among them are stuck in the cliché binary of Islamic-secular, and in particular they tend to see the protests merely as an overwhelmed secular civil society rising up against an Islamist party, that is, the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP), and as well as its regime and political economy since 2001.

In the light of this cliché binary of Islamic-secular, I think it would be more eye opening to turn the spotlight to the issues of urban space and affective domains in relation to the logic of late capitalism in Turkish context, and I would like to raise several questions: Why did the demonstrations take place in Istanbul’s cosmopolitan urban space, and in particular Taksim Square “as a site with many different histories.” Did citizens’ collective memory of the Square play a part in the rise of the insurrection? Can we view it as a successful urban-based activism rising on the shoulders of precarious identities whose ultimate goal was to reclaim public spaces in Istanbul? To what extent the fact of expanding political opportunities, transforming middle-class dynamics in general, and the logic of neoliberal rationality of the post-Washington consensus climate can be seen as the catalysts in the emergence of Gezi insurrection?

Can we also relate Gezi to broader ecological struggle manifesting itself through the Anatolian countryside in the form of local eco-protests since the mid 2000s? Based on auto- ethnographic insights, narrative analyses, and as well as the growing literature on Gezi, my presentation primarily aims to answer these questions by focusing on the logic of neoliberal rationality—which, I would suggest, has transformed Turkish political economy starting since the late 1970s.

Bio: Poyraz Kolluoglu is a Ph.D. student in the program of Cultural Studies at Queen’s University, Kingston since 2013. He completed his undergraduate studies at Bilkent University, Ankara in the department of International Relations, earned his master’s degree in Political Science in 2010 at Marmara University, Istanbul. During his graduate studies, he spent one year in Pavia University, Italy, thereby began developing interest in critical theory, microhistory narrations, social movement theories, and theories on affect. He was involved in a research project regarding urban migration flows in Turkey as a research assistant. He was also a Ph.D. student at Bogazici University before starting his research in Canada.