Conflict Arenas in the Middle East and North Africa: An Introduction to Social Movement and Protest Research
History, by nature, emerges in retrospect. At times, it is not until decades later that protest participants recognize the meaning of what they were part of. What makes social mobilization processes meaningful—and what they signify for the course of history—is mostly visible only when attention is turned to it with hindsight. This is true particularly for the protagonists of long-durée social movements, like the struggle for women’s rights or the pacifist anti-war movement, who have sometimes not even lived to reap the fruits of their efforts. At times, however, spectators realize that they are witnessing history in the making as events unfold. The mass uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa in 2010/2011 are frequently described as such a crucial instant of history live unfolding. These mobilization processes left a deep imprint, not only on Middle Eastern and North African societies, but also on social movement studies as a discipline. As such, they provide a prolific object of study for those who aim to understand the emergence, endurance, impacts, internal dynamics and cultural meanings of protest politics and social movements. Against this backdrop, this course aims to introduce students to the key debates in the social movement studies by exploring a variety conflict arenas in the Middle East and North Africa – including the main stages of the so-called "Arab Spring" and more recent protest sites in Algerian, Iraq, Lebanon and Sudan – and their relation to processes of social mobilization. It furthermore aims to familiarize the participants with a variety of methods to study the dynamics of protest events as well as processes of social mobilization. Accordingly, this course is both an introduction to social movement theory (including structuralist approaches, cultural perspectives, as well as relational and micro-interactionist approaches) and a practicum on research designs. It is appropriate not only for those with a special regional interest in Middle Eastern and North African politics but also for students who are interested in the field of social movement research more broadly and who may be planning to write their thesis on protest-related aspects. Prior knowledge of the region or the discipline of social movement studies is welcome but not required. Format: The course combines text work and presentations with more participatory formats. It requires a general willingness to complete reading requirements, actively participate in discussions and group work, and contribute to a productive, kind and nondiscriminatory seminar atmosphere. The readings are organized thematically according to different theoretical frames and methodological approaches, rather than geographically. They cover some of the most important scholarly works on contentious politics and social movements, as well as case studies from the Middle East and North Africa that show how the toolkit of social movement studies can be empirically applied to the study of contemporary protests. Each session involves, at least, two required readings. The first text details on a specific methodology or theoretical frame. The second text provides an example how this framework can be employed for empirical investigations, with a specific focus on case studies in the Middle East and North Africa. These readings must be completed in their entirety prior to class, and students should come prepared to discuss any aspect of these works. The syllabus, shared with students during the first seminar session, provides additional readings and resources that are not required, but may be useful to students with particular interests and for future reference. All required readings will be made available on Blackboard or online. Introductory reading: • Della Porta, D. (2014) Methodological Practices in Social Movement Research, Oxford University Press. • Snow, David A.; Soule, Sarah A.; Kriesi, Hanspeter (2004) The Blackwell Companion to Social Movements, Wiley-Blackwell (abrufbar im FU Netz unter folgendem Link: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/book/10.1002/9780470999103).