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Debate | LUCIS Panel Discussion | Islam in North Africa

Rage Against the Regime

Date
Friday 27 September 2019
Time
Explanation
Open to all but registration required
Location
Gravensteen
Pieterskerkhof 6
2311 SR Leiden
Room
0.11

Rage Against the Regime

As images of civil disobedience, mass protests and their brutal repression from Algeria to Sudan have populated media reports all summer, for its autumn program, the North Africa research group will bring together cutting-edge research from the MENA to examine a less explored angle: the limits of youthful protest.

This panel introduced by Cristiana Strava – brings together four regional experts and scholars working on various aspects of youthful activism, to discuss the limits and possibilities of different forms of protest and dissent across the MENA, in both current and historical perspective, from ethnographic and socio-political angles.

In the aftermath of the hype that followed the 2011 uprisings, many of the marginalized, stigmatized and racialized youth of the MENA region have grown increasingly disillusioned with the possibilities of political negotiation. Is the refusal to negotiate with the emerging and/or shifting forms of authoritarianism, discrimination, and violence becoming a new form of political expression? What are some of the every-day forms as well as exceptional practices of refusal, disengagement, and non-negotiation with current regimes? As anthropologists have noted, not all practices of refusal and non-negotiation can transform into and be considered as resistance. By focusing on the relationship between non-negotiation, refusal, and resistance we aim to question the affordability of resistance across national, gender, and class contexts. 

The aim is to trace an overview of the kinds of spaces available to youth in the region and debate the political affordances of non-negotiation. How are such disengagements articulated or what emergent shapes do they take in the contemporary moment across North Africa and the Middle East? 

Speakers

Matt Gordner | 'Work, Freedom, and National Dignity?!'  Youth-Led Protest Politics in Post-Uprising Tunisia


While Tunisia is hailed internationally as the only 'success story' of the so-called "Arab Spring," many revolutionaries of the Qasbah Square still struggle for "Work, Freedom, and National Dignity.” Successive free and fair elections place Tunisia well on its way towards democratic consolidation, yet upon closer investigation limits on freedoms of speech and assembly call the extent and substance of Tunisia’s democratic accolades into question. In this presentation, Matt Gordner (Ph.D. Candidate, University of Toronto) discusses central findings from seven years of fieldwork in Tunisia (2011-2019) on youth-led protest politics: land & labor protests (Wein el-Petrol), leftist movements (Manich Msema7 & Fech Nestanaou), and the impact of "NGO-ization" on the ability for young people to collectively challenge the Tunisian government's democratic credentials.   

Matt Gordner is a Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Toronto as well as a Senior Lecturer and Chair of Student Affairs at South Mediterranean University in Tunis, Tunisia. Matt’s dissertation examines long-term developmental patterns in Tunisia from the pre-colonial period to the present. The research for this presentation was supported by a Pierre Elliot Trudeau Scholarship, an American Political Science Association Civil Society Fellowship. His recent work includes peer-reviewed publications in Middle East Topics and Arguments (META), Project on Middle East Political Science (POMEPS), and encyclopedia entries in participedia.net, among others. Matt can be reached at matt.gordner@msb.tn or matt.gordner@mail.utoronto.ca.

Deniz Yonucu | Fear, Courage, and Refusal: Under the Conspicuous Gaze of the Undercover Police
 

Drawing on a case study from the urban margins of Istanbul, the paper examines the hypervisibility of police surveillance and the various public performances that provide support for dissident working-class youth who refuse to be frightened off the streets or be debilitated. Studies on surveillance and policing practices have shown that the threat posed by the undercover police creates fear among the people who are targeted. By taking a different path than such studies, which tend to focus on how fear paralyzes and thus serves as a mechanism of control and discipline, the paper argues that undercover police surveillance does not necessarily debilitate and pacify the intended subjects. Through an exploration of the uncharted dimensions of responses that are conditioned by such surveillance, it illustrates that the panoptic gaze of the undercover police can be experienced as an assault on subjects’ agency and free will, thereby triggering a desire to reject and defy the psychic power of the police.

Deniz Yonucu received her Ph.D. in Social Anthropology from Cornell University and is currently a DAAD Visiting Assistant Professor at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Institut für Ethnologie. Her research interests lie at the intersection of anthropology, criminology, and urban studies. More specifically, she focuses on urban violence, sectarianism, policing, the criminalization of racialized working-class youth, anti-terror laws, and human rights. Deniz Yonucu’s work has appeared in the International Journal of Urban and Regional Studies, Social & Legal Studies, Berkeley Journal of Sociology, among others. She has also published various op-ed articles related to her area of research in the openDemocracy, Jadaliyya, PoLAR Forum and beyond. Her book manuscript entitled War on Politics: Policing, Counterinsurgency and Political Space in Istanbul is currently under review by the Cornell University Press. The manuscript illustrates the ways in which counterinsurgency/policing practices serve as effective tools for refashioning dissent against the state.

Marta Agosti | Rage in Abeyance: Ethics and Survival in Egypt Post-June 30
 

Secular feminist activists have been the focus of previous research in Egypt. Yet the link of this constituency to the historical event that propelled its emergence has received little attention. How do we understand the ‘event’ that propelled a generation into the historical social movement that was Tahrir? The revolution was a milestone after which interventions to combat sexual violence developed and evolved against the state or standing in for it. These interventions were part and parcel of the revolutionary action that questioned the state and fought against disciplinary and regulatory techniques of ‘governmentality’ (Foucault 1991). In this context, the female protestor came to be a highly controversial subject that tested the limits of the state and revolutionaries alike. Yet, the so-called second revolution / Coup d’état, ‘broke’ the hopes for social change of this generation. Erstwhile flourishing and promising civil society initiatives were confronted to the deep state: Would you collaborate with institutions involved in crimes that went unpunished? Would we just go on or not? At the same time, one wonders what would we do then? This is an eternal problem.

Agosti engages with young urban secular activists, female and male, who joined street initiatives, NGO campaigns, and social movements more generally, to combat sexual violence during the Egyptian Revolution that started in January 2011.  Drawing upon fieldwork conducted for two years among groups of young, secular, feminist and human-rights activists, her research aims to answer how women’s bodies interrelated with other social forces to effectively bring down the regime. But it also addresses women’s interplay with its reconstitution after June 30, 2013.

Marta Agosti holds a Ph.D. in Social Anthropology at SOAS University of London. As a former development practitioner, she has been working in the Arab Region since 2005 for NGO's, United Nations (UNFPA) and bilateral donors. Her research interest revolves around the interaction of young women and men involved in Human Rights and Feminist civil society organizations with the State, with the development and gender machinery, and within their own activist's networks.

Jamal Bahmad

Jamal Bahmad is an assistant professor in the Department of English Language and Literature at Mohammed V University, Rabat, Morocco. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Stirling, United Kingdom, with a dissertation on Moroccan urban cinema since the 1990s. Jamal specializes and has published widely in the field of North African cultural studies with a focus on cinema, cities, literature, memory, and youth cultures. Unfortunately, Jamal will not be able to join in person, but we will play a recording of his talk titled: "Fast and Furious in Casablanca: Youth Cinema in Neoliberal Morocco".

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