Bringing People Back In Politics


Within the last three years the MENA-region has witnessed significant popular mobilization in connection with and following the so-called “Arab Spring”. The Middle East is changing and despite regressive tendencies and setbacks in some states and tragic developments as we see it in Syria, it still seems relevant to speak of a re-politicized, more dynamic and participatory population in several of the Arab states. Taking this significant reality as point of departure, this conference will analyze popular mobilization and the role of movements, organizations and parties in relation to the recent developments in the Middle East, and – in connection with that – discuss theoretical approaches and paradigms of relevance for the analysis of these new regional dynamics.

Long-standing grievances over repression, corruption, and economic hardship clearly played an important role in mobilizing protests in the early phases of the Arab revolts. A part of the scholarly work on collective action and mobilization following the uprisings in 2011 has focused on political opportunity structures, which emerged in the light of the unexpected developments in the region. In analyzing movements and political parties confronted with a changing reality, scholars have also focused on potential or real threats for the involved actors, which have reacted to the given conditions by mobilizing further political resources with the aim of influencing or maybe even conquering the political scene. An important question three years after the Arab uprisings seems to be to which degree protest movements, old and new political parties etc. have been able to establish sustainable channels of influence and if so how this can be interpreted.

As mentioned by Frederic Volpi (in an article in Democratization) a common question among policy-makers and in the media after the Arab revolts was: why do some authoritarian regimes remain in power while others fall when confronted with similar difficulties? While it might be relevant to underline the continued relevance of a theoretical paradigm based on authoritarian resilience, the specific dynamics of “revolutionary” episodes in individual countries emphasize that the status quo in the MENA-region was not always particularly stable.

In short the Arab revolts seem to confirm that the Middle East should not be considered a global exceptionality in this sense either, and by analyzing popular mobilization related to movements, NGO’s and other civil society phenomena, but also old and new political parties and organizations in the region, it is the ambition of this conference to contribute to the understanding of a changing Middle East. It has been discussed, if political organizations in the MENA-region have gained new momentum in a post-“Arab Spring” context. An aspect of this discussion revolves around an organization like the Arab League, which earlier played a limited political role, but recently appears to have become strengthened and also more explicitly a part on the political rivalry between the Arab states. Furthermore cooperative institutional entities like the Western Mediterranean Forum (5 + 5 Dialogue) seem to have attracted new focus in the light of the ongoing changes in North Africa.

The conference will be organized in themed sections, each with a specific focus on popular mobilization related to movements, parties and organizations, respectively.

 You can find the full program for conference here.

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