From the Editors
Awakening, Cataclysm, or Just a Series of Events? Reflections on the Current Wave of Protest in the Arab World
Perhaps the best starting point for understanding the current remarkable wave of protest spreading across the Arab world, would be to examine the nomenclature used to describe or frame it. To some observers it is seen as a ‘cataclysm.’ Others speak of the ‘contagion effect’. Still others might see it as simply a series of (fortunate or unfortunate) events not significantly related to each other. The terminology we use influences the conclusions we draw. We can see this if we juxtapose this Western branding which invokes undesirable images with the terms used by many commentators in the Arab world such as a ‘blossoming’ or ‘renaissance.’ What are these movements: a ‘disease’ or a ‘cure’? Are they monolithic or locally distinct? Is the outbreak of one protest related to, or caused by another? Finally, are the various Arab countries (and must they be only Arab?) equally ‘susceptible’ to the contagion?
What’s In a Name?
As the aftershocks of regime change in Tunisia and Egypt reverberate throughout the Arab world and beyond, political analysts are struggling to define what is going on. They point to the varying degrees of popular protest in almost every Arab country, including Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, Oman, Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Jordan, Sudan, the Palestinian Authority, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.
Surveying the flood of analysis, one notices that commentators from outside the region are frequently writing about what they call ‘the contagion effect;’ others are asking whether we are seeing an ‘epidemic’ of popular protest and revolution. In the more Realpolitik policy circles some speak of “cataclysm” and forecast grim consequences for the regional and global status quo. With no disrespect intended to the Japanese who are suffering a human catastrophe, I have heard the Arab upheavals described as a ‘tsunami’. But many commentators of liberal disposition in the Arab world and the west use very different nomenclature: they may speak of ‘a new dawn,’ ‘a blossoming’, even a ‘renaissance’ of democracy, freedom, and good governance.
The terminology we use often influences the conclusions we reach. The dictionary defines a ‘contagion’ as ‘the spreading of a harmful idea or practice.’ An ‘epidemic” is “a sudden, widespread occurrence of a particular undesirable phenomenon.” On the other hand, ‘blossoming’ means “to mature or develop in a promising or healthy way” and ‘renaissance’ in its broad sense refers to “a revival or a renewed interest in something”, and their Arabic equivalents—ba’th and nahda—mean “awakening, renewal, reemergence, rebirth.”
This article is now featured in Jadaliyya's edited volume entitled Dawn of the Arab Uprisings: End of An Old Order? (Pluto Press, 2012). The volume documents the first six months of the Arab uprisings, explaining the backgrounds and trajectories of these popular movements. It also archives the range of responses that emanated from activists, scholars, and analysts as they sought to make sense of the rapidly unfolding events. Click here to access the full article by ordering your copy of Dawn of the Arab Uprisings from Amazon, or use the link below to purchase from the publisher.
4 comments for "Awakening, Cataclysm, or Just a Series of Events? Reflections on the Current Wave of Protest in the Arab World"
If you prefer, email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hot on Facebook
"Any movement that wishes to resist capitalist exploitation and domination needs to understand the constant changing nature of capitalist organization and power. New forms of domination and exploitation require new techniques and strategies of resistance."click | email | tweet
Jad NavigationView Full Map, Topics, and Countries »
Jadalicious / جدلشس
Impunity is Not an Option: Ensuring Accountability for Mass Killings in Egypt http://t.co/nNWGDS4DlH
21 hours ago
A Guide to Lebanon’s Street Protests http://t.co/dfyDqK2dPc
21 hours ago
Nasr Hamid Abu Zaid: A Profile from the Archives http://t.co/GcjyYCVImF
yesterday at 5:24 AM
Let Us Not Praise Murderous Men; Lebanese Presidential Candidates, Considered http://t.co/wv1dQuPkOI
yesterday at 4:20 PM
Let Us Now Praise Murderers; Lebanese Presidential Candidates Considered http://t.co/xX5N5URHqI
yesterday at 1:30 PM
Latest EntriesView All Entries »
- Nasr Hamid Abu Zaid: A Profile from the Archives
- Let Us Now Praise Murderous Men; Lebanese Presidential Candidates, Considered
- قراءة في مضامين تدريس اللغتين العربية والعبرية في الجامعة العبرية
- على أرض الصحفيين ما يستحق الحكي
- من قصة النقل المشترك لمدينة بيروت: باصاتٌ ومترو في محطة الأحلام
- غزة والبحر
- Stasis Shift: Guernica Interviews Jadaliyya Co-Founder Bassam Haddad
- On the Struggle of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon
- On Not Despising the Present: Some Notes on Faris Giacaman’s 'The Sadness of Post-Militance'
- Tahrir, Taksim, Tempelhof: Between Political Fields
- الزمن الآخر\اتصال هاتفي في ساعة متأخرة من الليل
- On the Road: An Exhibition by Paul Ayoub Geday
- Event: Angela Davis and Jadaliyya Co-Editor Noura Erakat on Mass Incarceration in the United States and Palestine (19 April, Evergreen State College)
- DARS Media Roundup (April 16)
- New Texts Out Now: Valeska Huber, Channelling Mobilities: Migration and Globalisation in the Suez Canal Region and Beyond
- O.I.L. Media Roundup (16 April)
- Syria Media Roundup (April 16)
- Arabian Peninsula Media Roundup (April 15)
- Turkey Media Roundup (April 15)
- The Strands of the Military Opposition in Syria: An Interview with Yasser Munif (Part 2)