P27 – Five years during and more: activisms in North Africa after the 2011uprisings

P27 – Five years during and more: activisms in North Africa after the 2011 uprisings

Francesco Vacchiano . ICS-ULisboa, Lisbon
Giulia Daniele . CEI-IUL, Lisbon

The so-called ‘Arab spring(s)’ have increased the global awareness on the social movements in North Africa and Middle East, making such a long struggle – often silenced by local governments and international media ‐ visible.
Analyzing activism in the African continent cannot avoid touching on the challenging and ongoing history of the social movements in North Africa, a history made of recurrent repression, tenacious resistance and resurging hopes.
In this panel we propose an analysis of the post ‐ Arab Spring grassroots activism, movements and “non-movements” in the region, in order to take stock of the socio‐political changes and to observe the (many) unresolved issues which still mobilize activists of diverse sensibilities and walks of life.
We welcome interdisciplinary contributions that explore the different forms of mobilization, their ethical and political underpinnings, their contradictions, their results and open challenges, their old and new strategies, their social and political impacts.
Although the panel is open to all disciplines and perspectives, we particularly encourage contributions which take into account personal experiences, people’s moral positioning and imaginaries of the past and the future.


The Arab World entered the third revolutionary era in 2010s. Popular protest movement shows the Arab peoples frustration with the delayof substantial reform of the post – colonial state regimes. Arab uprising revealed the deep discrepancy between state and the society in Egypte,Tunisia, Yemen and Syria. Morocco was an exception. Indeed, the revolutionary wave urged the Moroccanmonarchy to conduct top-down reforms. Is Morocco immune in upheaval? While discussing the process of transition in Morocco, the aims goal of this this proposition is to capture this specific moment when a desire for change and democracy regressions of the political game has been articulated.


Pr. Smail Kouttroub . Rabat University – Morocco . smail.iurs@gmail.com

Whilst scholars of Middle East politics had almost completely neglected the study of Arab Political Parties (with the notable exceptions of Islamist organizations, often outlawed)  arguing that their role was minimal within an authoritarian context, the ‘Arab Uprisings’ –which started in late 2010- seem to have brought the role of political parties back at the attention of international academia. This paper looks at the role of the ‘Egyptian Left’ both before and after the recent ‘Springs’. I will be presenting a general discussion of the situation of the main parties and movements of the Left in Egypt on the eve of the 25 January Revolution and then I will focus especially on the role played by both old and new Left  in the ‘eighteen days’ of Tahir Square and after. Based on my in Egypt , and on the analysis of documents and secondary literature looked through the lens of (modified) social movements theory, this paper aims at highlighting continuities and breaks in the thought and political action of the Egyptian leftist parties before and after the Uprising, and suggests that the Uprisings have offered the Left an unmissable chance to overcome the ‘traditional’ gap between ‘revolutionary rhetoric excellence’ and the its absence amongst the Arab masses. In doing so, I will devote special attention to the trajectory of Hizb al-Tahaluf al-Ishtiraki (Socialist Alliance Party), which was founded in the aftermath of the ‘Revolution’, bringing together older and younger generations of activists.


Gennaro Gervasio . Roma Tre University, Italy . gennaro.gervasio@uniroma3.it

This thesis argues for the prioritized productivity of the local, the ordinary and the violent in the framing and the analysis of the Egyptian revolution. I demonstrate this productivity through a case study in which I analyze the role of the Popular Committees (PCs) – the armed civilian neighborhood-watch groups that were formed in every street in Egyptian cities to compensate for the withdrawal of the police – in the revolutionary contention over the removal of Mubarak. Based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork, I use “the local” as an analytic category to draw the determinants of the variation in political relationships and inter-neighborhood class dynamics of the PCs in Alexandria and Cairo. While I hypothesize the PCs as a contender in a (Trotskyan) state-centered revolutionary situation, I use the lens of micro-sociological theories of Bayat to interpret the identity, the politics and the agency of local, ordinary small actors. I conclude that, while the PCs were socially conservative, their localized, block by block, appropriation of the legitimacy of the use of violence, performance and narrativization of the police enforced a strategically significant nationwide civilian anti-police curfew. They, subsequently, created a dual power situation that restricted the choices of the incumbent regime and permitted those organized regime challengers, sitting-in public squares, to safely and performatively demand the removal of Mubarak and take credit for it. By including the millions of PC members, the public space construction of the streets of Egyptian cities, and the use of force, I rewrite the strategic model of revolutionary contention that removed Mubarak, redraw the political and social map of the early days of the revolution, and explain its later developments.


Ahmed Saleh . American University in Cairo . saleh.ahmed@aucegypt.edu

This paper will analyse the mobilisations of the precarious youth of the Tunisian island of Kerkennah. The social movement aimed to secure an income for its members from the multinational company Petrofac, which extracts natural gas from the nearby waters. In March 2011, during the revolutionary upheaval, the precarious youths of the island forced Petrofac to fund a state-managed employment program for about 250 young unemployed. In January 2016, Petrofac thought the time had come to roll back the concessions and stopped financing the scheme. This reignited the movement, which staged a sit in outside the plant blocking access to it. The riot police attacked the sit in on 3 April 2016 but it was forced to leave the island after twelve days of disorders. Petrofac had thus to sit at the negotiating table again and on 23 September 2016 it signed a new agreement granting employment to the protestors. The aim of the paper will be that of understanding the forms of consciousness and collective action of the Tunisian precarious youth five years after the revolution of which it was the protagonist. This will be done through the lenses of recent Marxist theorisations of existential and employment precariousness. More specifically, it will try to explain how the technical changes in the Tunisian “class composition” – and particularly the prominence of its “surplus” fraction – made possible the emergence of a social movement of this kind. The paper will contextualise the events in the historical perspective of neoliberal restructuring and of the more recent evolution of the Tunisian political landscape since the 2011 uprising. The research will be based on qualitative interviews with the participants and on online archival research.


Lorenzo Feltrin . University of Warwick . l.feltrin@warwick.ac.uk

Through insiders’ co-operative enquiry, I took on exploring Egyptian youth activists’ views and perceptions of their spaces and examining their strategies of forming and sustaining those spaces. Specifically, I questioned our experience with Mesaha, one of activists’ enabling spaces in Cairo, highlighting five layers of interdependent meanings we have articulated about the significance of this space to our activism. I, likewise, identified three strategies have been applied in order to put these meanings into practice and handle the contextual limitations. Examining such questions within the Egyptian context revealed how young activists responded to the on-going transformations and increasing limitations that they experienced throughout the past five years (2011 – 2015).


Mohamed Bassein H. Salman . independent researcher . yassein@mesaha.org

The question of the widespread use of Internet and information and communication technologies (ICT) constitutes a new dimension in the study of political activism and diasporic identities. In recent years, researchers have shown an increased interest in analyse web usage practice of diasporic groups and their influences in political issues concerned with their homelands. Since the Arab Spring was reported in 2010, new transnationals activisms has been attracting a lot of interest in order to explore the potential role of the Internet in new forms of struggles. Considering these evidences, and focus on the Gdeim Izik protest held in 2010 in the Moroccan-occupied areas of the Western Sahara, this proposal attempts to examine the role of the Internet as a new tool to reinforce transnational identities. By employing qualitative modes of enquiry based on visual ethnography and in-depth interviews, I analyse one of the YouTube activism channels of Sahrawi people in the Western Sahara and the impact of these videos in the Sahrawi diaspora, located in the refugee camps (Algeria) and Spain. I argue that these videos, based on direct violence and charged of emotions, strengthen the Sahrawi identity and their hope for the solution of the conflict.


Silvia Almenara Niebla . Universidad de La Laguna . silvia.almenara@ull.edu.es

This entry was posted in Panel. Bookmark the permalink.