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Are The Media Using The Wrong Yardstick To Measure The Revolution?

June 6, 2017

Is WinterThe concept of “revolution” used by Western media to report on the so-called “Arab Spring” (itself a term coined by the Western media) is rooted in understandings of the revolutionary events that took place in Europe and her colonies in the eighteenth and nineteenth century.

The concept of revolution used in global media discourses is, as a result of its origin, loaded with meanings informed by the Western understanding of modernity and progress.

The resulting Eurocentrism led to an inability by most journalists and their editors to comprehend the regional, cultural, and political peculiarities of the Arab Spring.

Those are the conclusions of a media frame analysis by Petra Cafnik Uludağ, professor of Political Science at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey.

In her paper “ critically examines how the global media uses the concept of revolution when reporting about the Arab Spring. The paper appears in the most recent edition of the journal Critical Studies in Media Communication.

Media framing analysis involves “discovering the principles of selection, emphasis and presentation composed of little tacit theories about what exists, what happens, and what matters” (Gitlin 1980). Frames are not “bias” in the popular sense of the term; they are the inevitable product of the generating and articulating news stories out of the actions and activities of life.

A media frame analysis of stories about the Arab revolts in The Guardian and The New York Times between 2011 and 2013 reveals the use of six common attributes derived from outdated Eurocentric notions of revolution, Uludağ claims. These six attributes are:

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“Revolutionary Egypt” Book Gets a Facebook Page

February 16, 2017

revegyptfacebookIts a book about the “Facebook revolution”, right? So it is only appropriate it finally gets its own Facebook page–concurrent with its coming out in paperback and as an e-book.

The book is Revolutionary Egypt: Connecting Domestic and International Struggles edited by Reem Abou-El-Fadl. Derived from a conference at Oxford University, it has chapters by Charles Tripp, Marie Duboc, Nicola Pratt, Mark Allen Peterson, Walter Armbrust, Alexander Kazamias, Raymond Hinnebusch, Adam Hanieh, Corinna Mullin, Kerem Öktem, Miriyam Aouragh, Anthony Alessandrini and Reem Abou-El-Fadl

Dust jacket:

In 2011 the world watched as Egyptians rose up against a dictator. Observers marveled at this sudden rupture, and honed in on the heroes of Tahrir Square. Revolutionary Egypt analyzes this tumultuous period from multiple perspectives, bringing together experts on the Middle East from disciplines as diverse as political economy, comparative politics and social anthropology.

Drawing on primary research conducted in Egypt and across the world, this book analyzes the foundations and future of Egypt’s revolution. Considering the revolution as a process, it looks back over decades of popular resistance to state practices and predicts the waves still to come. It also confidently places Egypt’s revolutionary process in its regional and international contexts, considering popular contestation of foreign policy trends as well as the reactions of external actors. It draws connections between Egyptians’ struggles against domestic despotism and their reactions to regional and international processes such as economic liberalization, Euro-American interventionism and similar struggles further afield.

Revolutionary Egypt is an essential resource for scholars and students of social movements and revolution, comparative politics, and Middle East politics, in particular Middle East foreign policy and international relations.

Egypt as “Securocratic” State

January 17, 2017

securocratic-stateThere’s a new paper from Maha Abdelrahman of the University of Cambridge entitled “Policing neoliberalism in Egypt: the continuing rise of the ‘securocratic’ state.”

Abdelrahman joins Paul Amar and others in arguing that continuation of the global neoliberal order is tied to demands for security, and that ruling elites must therefore inevitably be tied to the police apparatus in complex ways.

 

 

The as-Sisi regime, like the Mubarak regime, is a “securocratic” state, a state that uses the promise of security as a justification for its rule, and for its surveillance and strict control over multiple domains of life.

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What Did Hosni Mubarak Mean By “Democracy”

November 30, 2016

neoliberalismThat democracy means different things to different people is a truism so obvious as to be banal. But the intercultural problem that raises remains perpetually interesting: what do people in different times and places mean when they say “democracy”?

An article in the most recent edition of the International Journal of Comparative Sociology looks at this question from the viewpoint of  speakers who use the term a lot: autocratic leaders in North Africa, including Hosni Mubarak. The author, Brandon Gordon, of the University of Albany in the US, analyzes 1935 speeches given between 2000 and 2010 by heads of state from five North African countries: King Mohammed VI of Morocco, President ʿAbdulʿaziz Butefliqa of Algeria, President Zin al-ʿAbedin Ben ʿAli of Tunisia, Colonel Muʿammar al-Qadhafi of Libya, and President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.

Gordon’s data set includes 425 public speeches by Hosni Mubarak. Of these 171 (or 40%) mention “democracy.” There are 304 uses of the term in these 171 speeches.

Gordon draws on Erving Goffman’s concepts of frames, or “schemata of interpretation” that enable people to “locate, perceive, identify, and label” objects and experiences (1974: 21). Gordon likes the idea of framing because it focuses on the agency of the speaking actors, “the intentional ways that actors attempt to construct their self-presentations to gain the support of prospective constituents and actual or prospective resource providers.”

Autocrats, in other words, “need not be committed to a given cultural object in order to appropriate it.”

But Gordon wants to move beyond the obvious idea that autocrats use the language of democracy because it is culturally resonant with international institutions, powerful global actors, and local populations. He argues that these autocrats also sometimes attempt to challenge the  global cultural discourses they are appropriating by articulating frames that explicitly contradict them.

That is, they “discursively identify themselves with democracy while simultaneously avoiding substantive democratization.”

So what vision of democracy is revealed in Mubarak’s speeches?

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Cleaning Up Cairo

November 26, 2016

a-civilized-revolutionOne of the things I teach my students about power in my Peoples of the World class at Miami University is that power rests in the ways that we discipline ourselves to some moral order. We make power structures real by speaking and acting as if they were real; we bring them into existence day-by-day, moment-by-moment through the ways we live our live.

People who seek power can never rely on force alone; they must appeal to cultural principles of good and evil, right and wrong, inclusion and exclusion,  and order and disorder, to justify their actions and persuade citizens to discipline themselves to the political order they seek to create. Often these are articulated through images of embodied experiences: family life, health and illness, sports, earning a living and so forth.

This lesson is beautifully illustrated in a new article in American Ethnologist by my old friend Jessica Winegar. Jessica is the Harold H. and Virginia Anderson Associate Professor of Anthropology and Middle East and North African Studies at Northwestern University.

Entitled “A civilized revolution: Aesthetics and political action in Egypt,” Jessica focuses on what she calls aesthetic ordering, “collective action seeking to beautify public space and regulate behavior in it” which were  “cultivated and extensively performed during the 18-day protest, and … came to dominate public action in the immediate aftermath of its success.”

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Creating Participatory Democracy (Or Trying, Anyway)

November 22, 2016

democracyIn hindsight, the biggest problem with the extraordinary protests in Tahrir Square was the lack of a coherent plan for creating democracy once Mubarak stepped down.

I hear that all the time from journalists, Egyptian friends, fellow academics and friends. Certainly it is heartbreaking to watch documentaries about the uprisings and listen to excited young protesters insisting that once the regime falls, democracy will spontaneously flourish.

Much the same has been said about Occupy, #BlackLivesMatter, Indignados and other social movements that insist they are expressing popular democracy but have failed to articulate clear plans for change.

Buried in the logic of this critique is the assumption that protesters should have clearly articulated goals. This assumes that they are heterodox voices trying to change the existing system to make it more democratic.

But is creating positive social change within the existing system what protesters are actually going for? Or could these protests mean something else? And if so, what?

One way to find out is to ask them.

Armine Ishkanian of the London School of Economic and Marlies Glasius of the University of Amsterdam interviewed core activists in street protests in Cairo, as well as in London, Athens and Moscow in order to understand what these protesters expected of “democracy.”

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Bibliography of the Egyptian Revolution Updated

November 15, 2016

Books

The Bibliography resource on the Egyptian uprisings has been updated.

The bibliography now includes over 875 references.

Updates include articles from such journals as Digest of Middle East Studies, Information, Communication & Society, Journal of North African Studies, New Media & Society, South African Journal of International Affairs, and many others.

It also now includes books like Reem Abou El-Fadl’s Revolutionary Egypt: Connecting Domestic and International Struggles, Brecht De Smet’s A Dialectical Pedagogy of Revolt: Gramsci, Vygotsky, and the Egyptian Revolution, and The Arab Spring: Pathways of Repression and Reform by Jason Brownlee, Tarek E. Masoud, and Andrew Reynolds among others.

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