The Arab Spring Six Years On

Six years ago, after starting with the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi, a wave of protests in the Arabian Middle East toppled several governments and gave voice to a new generation of activists. Mobilizing Ideas marks this anniversary with a dialogue entitled, “Movement Trajectories: The Arab Spring Six Years On.” We ask our contributors to consider the pathways of movements after the period of mass mobilization, specifically looking at the countries of the Arab Spring.

Many thanks to our fantastic group of contributors.

James M. Dorsey, Nanyang Technological University (essay)
Charles Kurzman, University of North Carolina (essay)
Anne PriceHelen RizzoChelsea MartyKatherine Meyer (essay)
Atef Said, University of Illinois-Chicago, (essay)

Editors in Chief,
Grace Yukich, David Ortiz, Rory McVeigh, Guillermo Trejo

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Informing Activists: How do movements influence elections?

Fabio Rojas

How do movements influence elections?

Recommended Readings

CLASSIC:

Meyer, David S., and Sidney G. Tarrow. 1998. The social movement society: Contentious politics for a new century. Rowman & Littlefield,

CONTEMPORARY:

Heaney, Michael, and Fabio Rojas. 2011. “The partisan dynamics of contention: demobilization of the antiwar movement in the United States, 2007-2009.” Mobilization: An International Quarterly 16, no. 1: 45-64.

REVIEW:

Schwartz, Mildred A. 2010. “Interactions between social movements and US political parties.” Party Politics 16(5):587-607.

 

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Informing Activists

Mobilizing Ideas is excited to announce the publication of a special series this month called “Informing Activists.” Coordinated by Jennifer Earl and Thomas Elliott (both at the University of Arizona), and in in partnership with the Youth Activism Project, this series includes videos from some of the top scholars in social movements, recommended readings, and other resources on topics ranging from framing to social movement consequences, all tailored to young activists, potential organizers, and/or potential protest participants. We hope you will share this series widely, especially with young people in your communities interested in working for social change.

Editors in Chief,
Grace Yukich, David Ortiz, Rory McVeigh, Dan Myers


The Youth Activism Project, which is sponsored by the MacArthur Research Network on Youth and Participatory Politics, has joined with Mobilizing Ideas to produce a video series designed to translate academic research on social movements into actionable information and questions that can be of use to young activists, potential organizers, and/or potential protest participants.

The MacArthur Research Network on Youth and Participatory Politics (YPP) is a network of ten scholars from various disciplines that have come together to understand how youth are getting involved civically and politically, including through sharing and producing civic and political content online. We are also interested in understanding the risks and opportunities that the use of digital media may play in these engagements. While the network invests in, and members conduct, basic research on these topics, YPP is also dedicated to translating relevant research findings into actionable information for young people, activists, educators, and/or policy-makers.

This video series comes out of that desire to connect young people with critical research on activism. We’ve invited some of the top scholars in the field of social movements to talk about what their research has to say about how to be effective activists. For example, David Snow discusses what advice his pioneering work in framing has for activists looking to improve their messaging. Holly McCammon discusses how her work in strategic adaptation helps guide activists in modifying their strategies to changing contexts. Our goal is that these videos can help current and future activists better plan their campaigns to achieve success.

Each page contains at least one video that we hope will help young activists make informed decisions about their engagements, a bio about the presented, and some suggested readings if someone is interested in a deeper dive into the topic area.

We hope you find these to be helpful, and welcome suggestions about new videos. You can email us at yap.arizona@gmail.com. Good luck on making the change you envision!

Table of Contents

Do movements make a difference? 

In what ways do social movements make a difference? – Thomas Elliott

How/When do movements make a political difference? – Katrin Uba

How/When do movements affect culture? – Jenn Earl

When do movements shape public opinion? – Neal Caren

How does movement participation affect people’s lives? – Marco Giugni

How do movements influence elections? – Fabio Rojas

How do I get (more/new/different) people involved?

Who Participates in Movements and Why? – Bert Klandermans and Ziad Munson

What can be done about activist burnout? – Sharon Nepstad

How do I build identity and solidarity in a movement? – Rachel Einwohner

How can I build coalitions and increase diversity? – Rich Wood

What should I focus on when I am trying to create change? 

How much does the political environment affect my cause? – David Meyer

What are the best tactics for my cause? – Catherine Corrigall-Brown

How do I use online tools to help my cause? – Lissa Soep

What are the best targets for my cause? – Tom Maher

How do I adapt my tactics to the political environment? – Holly McCammon

What should I think about when I am creating an organization?

When do I need an organization? – Jenn Earl

How do I work with existing organizations? – Grace Yukich

How can I build coalitions and increase diversity? – Rich Wood

What are some considerations for youth in organizations? – Sarah Gaby

How can I be more convincing? 

How do I talk about my cause? – David Snow

What do I need to know about the media environment? – Deana Rohlinger

How do I stay safe? 

What are the risks of activism and can I reduce those risks? – Heidi Reynolds-Stenson

How can I protect myself legally when I am active online? – Derek Bambauer

What else do I need to know? 

How Might These Topics Apply to a Specific Campaign? – Elizabeth Armstrong

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Informing Activists: What can activists in the West learn from the Arab Spring?

 

Three relevant pieces of research about social movements and the Arab Spring:
Mobilization Journal’s special issue on the Arab Spring:
http://mobilizationjournal.org/toc/maiq/17/4

Howard, Philip N., and Muzammil M. Hussain. 2013. “Democracy’s fourth wave?: digital media and the Arab Spring.” Oxford University Press.

Alimi, Eitan Y., and David S. Meyer. 2011. “Seasons of change: Arab Spring and political opportunities.” Swiss Political Science Review 17.4: 475-479.

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Crises of Capital, Populist Politics

The social movements field of scholarship no longer holds strain and breakdown theories in high regard when attempting to understand and explain mobilization emergence. However, as micromobilization theorist Aldon Morris explained in Frontiers in Social Movement Theory, collective action and social movement consciousness must be located within the systems of domination that oppress actors in a myriad of ways. It might be possible then to think of crises of capitalism and heightened periods of economic exploitation as an underlying factor that inflames simmering racial tensions and popular protests over scarce resources. Continue reading

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The Fast and The Furious: protest impact

Are protests effective? This straightforward question interests both scholars and lay observers of protest. Whereas scholars most frequently answer the question with a nuanced ‘it depends’ and start narrating about contingencies; citizens and especially journalists most often simply want to hear impressive stories. Not the historical cases everybody is familiar with, but preferably more recent ones. Tales of contemporary struggles that truly show the potency of protest.

In the last few months, several examples of protest and success covered in international media caught my attention. These protests were noteworthy because, contrary to what much scholarly work suggests—that is, that protest is especially effective in the long run—these actions succeeded extremely quickly, in a matter of days. Their success seemed to be as sudden as their emergence. Continue reading

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Was the Arab Spring Worth It?

By Charles Kurzman

You risked your life for freedom, dignity, justice, and equality. You took days and weeks from other responsibilities – from your family, your school, your work — in order to serve your nation. You convinced yourself that you were building a better future. Now you ask yourself, was it worth it? Continue reading

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Three Lessons For Social Movement Research From the Egyptian Revolution

By Atef Said

Jack Goldstone famously argued that revolutions are like earthquakes: unpredictable. Once an earthquake happens, however, we study it to learn something new (Goldstone 1991: 59, 149). In the same vein, sociologists Mohamed Bamyeh and Sari Hanafi recently stated “Revolutions, therefore, are opportunities to learn something new. The worst analytical insult to a revolution is to use it as an opportunity to apply mechanically an existing theory or model.” (Bamyeh and Hanafi 2015: 343) What can we learn from the Arab Spring today, 6 years later? A general Google search brings up 11,700,000 entries that roughly have some version of “Lessons from the Arab spring” in the title. These lessons/conclusions vary from blaming some actors (such as the political Islamists, or the “revolutionary youth”) or forces of the old regimes (such as the military or the security apparatuses), or the elite (intellectual or the political elite, which varies from liberal, nationalists to Marxist leftists) or discussing the problem of a lack of organization or leadership. And there is a multitude of lessons to be learned, depending on the perspective of the scholar or observer. Continue reading

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The Arab Spring and Women’s Continued Mobilization in the Region

By Anne PriceHelen RizzoChelsea MartyKatherine Meyer

What does the Arab Spring uprisings’ effect on women in the MENA region tell us about the broader outcomes of the Arab Spring? In this piece, we discuss: 1) women’s status as a key indicator of the potential for democracy in the region, 2) changes in women’s status since the Arab Spring, and 3) the ways in which women’s increased mobilization as a result of the Arab Spring has been—and can continue to be—a pathway to improvements in women’s status. We give particular attention to the case of Egypt. Continue reading

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