The University of Iowa

Resources for "Arab Spring in a Global Context"

Gallery Talk of the exhibit, Unfinished Business:  The Arts of New Arab Revolutions, by Rachel Winter, University of Iowa

"The exhibit "Unfinished Business" at the Old Capitol Museum in Iowa City, Iowa explores how the arts of the Arab World are an integral part of the revolutionary wave that swept the Middle East beginning in the Arab Spring. This kind of exhibit is unprecedented to Iowa City in its content and scope. However, the exhibit moves beyond the visual arts to consider performative arts, literature, theatre, music, dance, and poetry. After considering what the exhibit includes, the theoretical framework that shapes the exhibit, and the important lessons that can be learned from the exhibit, the gallery talk will move beyond the Arab Spring. Therefore, the talk will consider the kind of artistic influence the Arab Spring had on contemporary Middle Eastern art after the Arab Spring, as well as how certain themes both parallel and differ from the themes presented in the Arab Spring."
Unfinished Business PowerPoint

Presentations of selected papers

Bader Al-Saif, Georgetown University, Neither Fulool (Remnants) nor Ikhwan (Muslim Brothers)? The Thought of Abdul Rahman Yusuf and the Rise of Alternative Directions

""Neither Fulool (Remnants) nor Ikhwan (Muslim Brothers)? The Thought of Abdul Rahman Yusuf and the Rise of Alternative Directions': The second coup in Egypt’s contemporary period, the July 3, 2013, military coup, temporarily halted the Muslim Brotherhood’s (MB) public political foray in the post-Mubarak era. The MB appeared invincible, but none of the MB's electoral victories were landslides by any measure. Many Egyptians are split between al-fulool and al-Ikhwan. Many voices are lamenting the return of military rule as much as there were voices that lamented MB’s domination of the Egyptian political scene.  Amidst this extreme polarization, there is a growing middle voice that is neither MB- nor military-affiliated. Thanks to the events of the last two years, the recent and blatant military takeover is encouraging the rise of this third wave which experienced the worst of both groups. To demonstrate an example of post-July coup discourse evolution, I map out the changing discourse of a controversial figure, Abdul Rahman Yusuf (AY), the son of the more controversial Shaikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi. While AY’s writings are neither representative of all Egyptians nor representative of a growing third alternative per se, his newspaper articles offer a flavor of Egypt’s dynamic press and an indication of this third way in post-Morsi Egypt."

Robert Asaadi, University of Minnesota, Rethinking Rogue Statehood:  Iran and the Arab Spring

""Rethinking Rogue Statehood:  Iran and the Arab Spring':  What types of factors help explain Iran's foreign policy toward the Arab uprisings? Why has the Iranian regime supported protesters in some cases, and supported the regimes in power in others? In this paper, I argue that international political dynamics, namely Iran's isolation and the regime insecurity generated by its position as a 'rogue state,' can help us better understand its evolving foreign policy in the region. Drawing on speeches and public statements from Iran's political leaders, I outline four phases of Iran's engagement with the events of the Arab uprisings, beginning with a period of initial optimism and support for the protest movements, and concluding with a more cautious, measured, and uneasy approach to the uprisings, which have been increasingly understood as opportunities for foreign intervention and regional proxy war. It is precisely the position of isolation and exclusion from the 'family of nations' and the precariousness of that position which has left the Iranian regime, I argue, particularly weary of foreign interventions in the region. My analysis motivates a shift away from a strictly sectarian understanding of Iran's aspirations in the region, and instead calls for a move toward understanding how the relational dynamics generated by Iran's position on the margin of the global political landscape generates the insecurity which shapes how it engages with its neighbors and with the region at large."
Rethinking Rogue Statehood:  Iran and the Arab Spring PowerPoint

Amina Asim, Northwestern University, Cycles of Contention & Social Movement Networks: New mass media linkages and transnational collective action during the 1848 & 2011 people revolutions

""Cycles of Contention & Social Movement Networks: New mass media linkages and transnational collective action during the 1848 & 2011 people revolutions':  This paper provides a historically based meso-level understanding of the link between mass media technologies and protest cycles by comparing the waves of revolutions in 1848 and 2011. It is argued that both waves of protest which suggest similar “cycles of contention” separated by more than a century represent unique moments of opening up of public space accelerated by recent innovation in particular mass media technologies. An inter-disciplinary approach explains the transnational and speedy spread of these protests where disparate groups exhibited similar collective action strategies. In particular, the paper applies the concepts "double diffusion" from social network studies and “innovation” in collective action from political science to delineate basis for historical comparison and its contemporary implications. It is concluded that an inter-relational approach to understanding role played by mass media gives rise to new insight about the possibilities of its use, particularly for trans-border collective action, as well as in contextualizing the post-Arab Spring debate about the democratic potential of people's movements."

Gal Levy, University of Kansas, The Challenge of Citizenship after the Arab Spring

""The Challenge of Citizenship after the Arab Spring':  From Tunisia to Madrid, Tel Aviv and Zuccotti Park, protesters took to the streets to occupy them until another world will rise. The language it spoke and the shape it took attested to the magnitude of this event. And still, three years later, we ask whether something has fundamentally changed. In this paper I make three points. 1) I propose that in our assessment of what has happened, we should listen more closely to the people at the expense of those pundits who interpret them. One reason may be that the three epistemological frameworks of analysis of the post-WWII era seem to exhaust their explanatory power in the face of the new struggle. 2) I call for a reconsideration of these frameworks, New Social Movements, civil society and radical democracy, that informed and shaped potential political action. 3) Their failure to account for the current events animates my final point, where I propose to see the 2011 social protest as a game-like activity. This has not only broadened the struggles of and for democracy in Israel, but, by essentially validating the point of view of those who inhabit the margins of society, it induced novel ways of representation, thereby offering citizenship new trajectories in the “post protest era”.
The Challenge of Citizenship after the Arab Spring PowerPoint

Sarah Louden, University of Illinois at Chicago, Political Islamism in Tunisia:  a History of Repression and a Complex Forum for Potential Change

The growth and legalization of Political Islamism, in the specific context of Tunisia post-Arab Spring, may take the place of the contemporary theoretical space that is occupied by violent extremists. The basis for this claim lies in the idea that condemnation of Political Islamism in Tunisia historically backfired in the nation and led to further radicalization among Islamists. Dscussion will include the different factors – historical and contemporary – that provide evidence for the partnership of Islamism and Democracy. Specifically, focus is on the moderate Islamist party Ennahda, the Salafist party Ansar al-Sharia, and their complex relationship to each other both prior to and after the Arab Spring, as well as their relationship to Tunisian and International politics at large.

Political Islamism in Tunisia:  a History of Repression and a Complex Forum for Potential Change Powerpoint

Molly Patterson, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Shi'a Resistance and the Arab Spring Movement in the GCC States

""Shi'a Resistance and the Arab Spring Movement in the GCC States':  The Arab Spring movement publicly highlighted the demands of citizens across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) for reform. While many members of the international media focused primarily on the dramatic events unfolding in Tunisia and Egypt, activists throughout the MENA region took to the streets to demand a greater political voice. This chapter examines the challenges of one particular group, the Shi‘a of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, and their struggle to implement democratic transformation at home from 2011-2013.  While the Arab Spring movement itself is struggling against an orientalist backlash from abroad, GCC Shi‘a communities often face a similar lack of understanding from their fellow citizens of the Gulf.   This chapter asks the question: Are the GCC Shi‘a engaged in their own “Shi‘a Spring movement”, and, if so, what does this mean for the future of Shi‘a communities in the Arabian Gulf?  This question will be answered by examining the history of Shi‘a political activism in the Gulf, as well as diverse voices from the international media, human rights organizations and GCC activists.  While the “Arab Spring” is a movement that is shared among an entire ethno-linguistic group, Shia protesters belong to a group that have be both politically and religiously marginalized in the modern GCC states.  Shi‘a protesters face discrimination not only from GCC political authorities, but from GCC citizens, some of whom are fellow Arabs.  In addition, it examines both the overt and more subtle forms of orientalism imposed on the GCC Shi‘a community during the first phases of the Arab Spring movement (2011-2013)."

Hamza Tayebi, Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University-Fez, Morocco, The Independent Press and Myth of the Moroccan Spring

""The Independent Press and Myth of the Moroccan Spring': The wave of Arab Spring that started in Tunisia and Egypt arrived to Morocco in 2011 paving the way to unprecedented organized mass-protests all over the country. Among the demands raised by the 20 February Movement protesters was the demand for free and independent media outlets, especially the press. King Mohammed VI, the Commander of the Faithful and the highest authority in Morocco, promised in a televised speech on March 9th to introduce "radical" and "genuine" constitutional reforms that would democratize the country. In fact, King Mohammed VI has so far succeeded in calming down and co-opting the demonstrations, but journalists and political activists still get fined if they trespass the Hudud. In my short article, I will briefly contextualize the Moroccan independent press and discuss its status after the "Moroccan Spring" with an attempt to show, through cases of imprisoned journalists, the contradictions associated with the liberalization of speech in Morocco. One of the main arguments of my article is that the democratization of the press could never be achieved as long as the public discourse that brings monarchical powers and actions into question is illegal."

Dr. Mark C. Thompson, King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals-Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, State-Society Relations and Societal Transformation in Saudi Arabia: The Perspective of Youth

""State-Society Relations and Societal Transformation in Saudi Arabia: The Perspective of Youth':  State-society dialogue and demands for socio-political reform have been discussed widely since the advent of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’, in a highly visible intensification of a longer running trend. The Arab world had, until then, come to be seen in the public eye as well as in much of academia, as an exceptional case where successive ‘waves of democratization’ appeared to have no grip and authoritarianism proved especially persistent. The Arab Spring shattered this view, although by the same token at least some of the monarchies in the Arab world remained less perturbed. Even here, though, discussion proliferated and governments reacted in diverse ways. Citizens across the Arab world have been questioning the lack of access to state actors and institutions and, in addition, to the narrow degree of participation in the political process. Whilst the internal dynamics of individual nations vary greatly, many of the societal issues and problems highlighted: unemployment; women’s rights; youth aspirations; increased cost of living and education; resonate with societies across the region, including the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Contemporary Saudi societal issues remain an under-researched area particularly by non-Saudi academics, in part due to lack of access to Saudi societal constituencies and to a certain extent due to a limited understanding and / or knowledge of contemporary Saudi society in all it diversity. Nevertheless, what is extremely significant nowadays is how Saudi socio-politics is being affected by societal transformation; one that is being driven by a potent combination of demographics, increased education, access to the Internet and social media usage. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia’s predominantly young population is increasingly well-travelled and globally interconnected. In consequence, young Saudis have experienced a very rapid political awakening. These factors raise important questions regarding the consequences of growing political awareness on Saudi state-society relations and societal transformation.

This paper utilizes primarily a qualitative approach, including interviews, focus group discussions and student reports, based on open-ended questions, either oral or written that allowed individuals to express their views at length. This qualitative research facilitated the identification of major themes and trends that are discussed throughout the paper. In addition, a quantitative approach in the form of online surveys was also conducted in order to support some of the identified trends. The research was conducted with individuals in various parts of the Kingdom as well as approximately 210 male undergraduate students taking a new “Globalization” course piloted and taught by the author at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM) in the academic year 2013–2014 and approximately 120 male undergraduate students taking an introduction to “International Relations” course in 2014."
State-Society Relations and Societal Transformation in Saudi Arabia: The Perspective of Youth PowerPoint

Rachel Winter, University of Iowa, Out of the Periphery

"''Out of the Periphery' explores the arts of the Arab World before and after the Arab Spring. The Arab Spring made street art and other creative media famous because of the political dissent that it voiced. However, a further exploration of the arts of the Arab World reveals that artists before the Arab Spring were voicing their discontent with the authoritarian regimes and predicted the kind of conflict and uprising that would come from the continued reign of these regimes. The events of the Arab Spring made these ideas more prominent. Additionally, those protesters in the Arab Spring put their ideas into a physical form with the creation of various visual arts that expressed their ideas and discontent. The parallels between the two groups of artists shows that the Arab World has decisive opinion and great hopes for change and hopes to overcome adversity and become a great nation.​"
Out of the Periphery PowerPoint