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Dispatches from the Arab Spring

Understanding the New Middle East

Paul Amar

Publication Year: 2013

The Arab Spring unleashed forces of liberation and social justice that swept across North Africa and the Middle East with unprecedented speed, ferocity, and excitement. Although the future of the democratic uprisings against oppressive authoritarian regimes remains uncertain in many places, the revolutionary wave that started in Tunisia in December 2010 has transformed how the world sees Arab peoples and politics. Bringing together the knowledge of activists, scholars, journalists, and policy experts uniquely attuned to the pulse of the region, Dispatches from the Arab Spring offers an urgent and engaged analysis of a remarkable ongoing world-historical event that is widely misinterpreted in the West.

Tracing the flows of protest, resistance, and counterrevolution in every one of the countries affected by this epochal change—from Morocco to Iraq and Syria to Sudan—the contributors provide ground-level reports and new ways of teaching about and understanding the Middle East in general, and contextualizing the social upheavals and political transitions that defined the Arab Spring in particular. Rejecting outdated and invalid (yet highly influential) paradigms to analyze the region—from depictions of the “Arab street” as a mindless, reactive mob to the belief that Arab culture was “unfit” for democratic politics—this book offers fresh insights into the region’s dynamics, drawing from social history, political geography, cultural creativity, and global power politics. Dispatches from the Arab Spring is an unparalleled introduction to the changing Middle East and offers the most comprehensive and accurate account to date of the uprisings that profoundly reshaped North Africa and the Middle East.

Contributors: Sheila Carapico, U of Richmond; Nouri Gana, UCLA; Toufic Haddad; Adam Hanieh, SOAS/U of London; Toby C. Jones, Rutgers U; Anjali Kamat; Khalid Medani, McGill U; Merouan Mekouar; Maya Mikdashi, NYU; Paulo Gabriel Hilu Pinto, U Federal Fluminense, Brazil; Jillian Schwedler, Hunter College, CUNY; Ahmad Shokr; Susan Slyomovics, UCLA; Haifa Zangana.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press


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pp. v-7

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Introduction: Revolutionizing the Middle East

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pp. vii-xiii

It is time to rethink how we all apprehend the Arab world. The myriad revolts and revolutions of the so-called Arab Spring unleashed forces of emancipation and spirits of social justice that swept across the region with unprecedented speed, ferocity, and joy. As these epochal...

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pp. 1-23

Ghannouchi might have tactfully, and not without a touch of humor, avoided commenting on Egypt’s internal affairs at a time when Tunisia was caught in the midst of its own mass revolt as millions of protesters in Egypt’s Tahrir Square raged against then president Mubarak. Diplomacy...

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pp. 24-62

What kind of large-scale political and social changes were initiated by the mass uprisings in Tahrir Square and throughout Egypt in 2011 and by the continuing waves of protests and mobilizations during the two years that followed? Given the persistence of forms of repression...

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pp. 63-88

In a Washington Times opinion piece published on April 19, 2011, Bahrain’s ruling monarch, King Hamad, proudly recounted his government’s response to the demonstrations that had spread throughout the country in February (Khalifa 2011). Noting that the people’s “grievances...

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Saudi Arabia

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pp. 89-100

Saudi Arabia’s aging leaders were deeply shaken by the revolutionary ferment that swept through the Middle East in early 2011. They watched in frustration as Egyptian and Tunisian publics threw their longtime dictators from power. Anxiety turned to horror as opposition...

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pp. 101-121

In February 2011, Tawakkol Karman stood on a stage outside Sanaa University. A microphone in one hand and the other clenched defiantly above her head, reading from a list of demands, she led tens of thousands of cheering, flag-waving demonstrators in calls for peaceful political...

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pp. 122-134

Postindependence Algeria combines a valiant history of revolutionary struggle for national liberation with a militarized authoritarian structure. Although established through a war of independence (1954–62) with the promise of political transformation, Algeria under...

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pp. 135-156

In December 2011, Kenza, a young Moroccan pro-democracy activist whose family lives in one of the capital’s poorest suburbs shared her puzzlement with me: “Look around you,” she said. “We Moroccans have every reason to rebel, yet nothing is happening!” (personal interview...

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pp. 157-203

After nearly three decades, the gates of Abu Salim were wide open. For Libyans, the very name of the prison still evokes nightmares, visions of a purgatory from which one might never return. A symbol of the terror that came to define Muammar Qaddafi’s forty-two-year...

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pp. 204-242

Protests against Bashar al-Assad’s rule in Syria started in the aftermath of the ousting of Ben Ali’s dictatorship by the Tunisian revolution. In January 2011, civil disobedience and demonstrations of dissatisfaction with the Baathist regime, which included self-immolations, started to...

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pp. 243-265

The police were mostly peaceful on the first day, blocking off the Dakhili traffic circle, watching and wandering among the demonstrators, and trying to defuse tensions. The Youth waved Jordanian flags and donned the red-and-white kaffiyehs that signify Jordanian national...

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pp. 266-281

On February 27, 2011, a group of Lebanese citizens working toward changing the Lebanese political system came together under the slogan “For the fall of the sectarian regime in Lebanon: toward a secular, civil, and democratic regime.” Soon their enthusiasm spilled over the...

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pp. 282-307

May 15 is a special day for Palestinians because it commemorates the displacement of eight hundred thousand fellow countrymen at the hands of Zionist militias during the 1948 War and the declaration of Israeli independence. One might expect that these events, known...

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pp. 308-324

At the heart of most Arab capital cities there is a Tahrir Square. Baghdad is no exception. Following February 25, 2011, demonstrations and vigils were taking place in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square as well as in similar squares in other Iraqi cities—Basra, Kut, and Karbala in the...

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pp. 325-353

The protests in the Middle East and North Africa that began in late 2010 highlighted a number of issues that had been obscured by longstanding ahistorical understandings of Middle Eastern and Islamic societies and Western-centered fallacies. Specifically, they demonstrated...

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pp. 355-371

It has been a tremendously exciting and illuminating time, gathering together this superb team of engaged scholars and political analysts and collaborating in the publication of such a comprehensive collection. First, we thank Lisa Duggan at New York University for bringing us, the...


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pp. 357-361


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pp. 363-391

E-ISBN-13: 9781452940601
E-ISBN-10: 1452940606
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816690121

Page Count: 384
Publication Year: 2013