Revolution & Social Change in the Middle East
Recent events in Tunisia, Bahrain and Egypt suggest that the Middle East is not immune to political revolutions and that profound social changes are to affect political systems in the region in the long run. The course will be composed of lectures and class discussions. It will survey past instances of revolutions in the Arab world (in particular the 1950s anti-monarchical and pan-Arab revolutions in Egypt and Iraq) and elsewhere in the region (the 1905 Constitutional Revolution, and the 1978-79 Islamic revolution in Iran, on top of a focus on modern Turkey), concluding with an analysis of the current events that many have dubbed the ‘Arab Spring’ or ‘Arab Awakening’. The other part of the course will analyze and compare bottom-up calls for political changes, in particular civil society’s variegated attempts at playing a more active role in the region, be it in promoting more pluralism and equality or by imposing obscurantist visions of politics around sectarian or religious identification. Special attention will be dedicated to the urban-rural divide, the role of trade unions as transcending ethnic or communal identities, competing ideologies (Arab nationalism, pan-Arabism, socialism and Islamisms), the spread of new transnational media, and the growing political role of youth in the region.