The Arab Spring is not lost

Moral protest as the embodiment of a new politics

Authored by: Larbi Sadiki , Layla Saleh

The Routledge Handbook to the Middle East and North African State and States System

Print publication date:  November  2019
Online publication date:  November  2019

Print ISBN: 9780367358877
eBook ISBN: 9780429342486
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter explores the “Arab Spring” popular Uprisings sweeping the MENA region since late 2010 to posit moral protest as a dynamic of new politics “from below.” It begins with a conceptualization of bottom-up “protest politics” as al-hirak, an agential Arab peoplehood dissenting against authoritarianism, variously manifested, with uneven, still-unfolding effects across the Arab geography. Second, the chapter emphasizes the continuity and permanence of moral protest and its emancipatory content as a defining feature of al-hirak, despite cases of polarization and even fragmentation spanning state and society. The contention here is that this normative terrain, a moral workshop of sorts, opens up an arch of possibilities which did not exist prior to 2011. Its implications for challenging dawlat al-ikrah (the coercive apparatus of the authoritarian state) are profound. Third, the chapter calls for a rethinking of the social and political upheavals of the past 8 years, away from a prevalent “Arab Winter” narrative. An emphasis on “publics” rather than the institutional and organizational trappings of the state can equip scholars to analyze the Arab Spring’s impact on the distribution of power and resources across the Arab world.

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