Author Archives: Mobilizing Ideas

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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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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The Post-2011 Arab World: Change is the Name of the game

By James M. Dorsey

Common wisdom has it that ultimately failed or troubled popular revolts in 2011 in the Middle East and North Africa have sparked bloody civil wars and violent extremism, and given autocracy a new lease on life.

Indeed, there is no denying that a brutal civil war in Syria has killed hundreds of thousands and dislocated millions. Iraq, like Syria, is seeking to defeat the Islamic State (IS), the most vicious jihadist movement in recent history. Sectarianism and religious supremacism is ripping apart the fabric of societies in the Middle East, North Africa, and beyond.

Yet, the legacy of the 2011 revolts is not simply massive violence, brutal jihadism, and choking repression. In fact, the revolts kicked off an era of change, one that is ugly, destabilizing, violent and unpredictable, and that may not lead any time soon to more liberal, let alone democratic rule. Continue reading

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Looking Back on Five Years of Mobilizing Ideas

To celebrate the five year anniversary for Mobilizing Ideas, we are inviting contributors to revisit our first topic. In 2011, we invited a number of scholars to reflect on the recently published Digitally Enabled Social Change: Activism in the Internet Age (MIT Press, 2011) by Jennifer Earl and Katrina Kimport. The dialogue considered the emergence of social media and how it might affect movements. Now, with more hindsight, we ask activists and scholars what has changed in our thinking about the ways in which movements use social media, and to what effect.

Many thanks to our fantastic group of contributors.

Jennifer Earl, University of Arizona, (essay)
Deana Rohlinger, Florida State University (essay)
Paul-Brian McInerney, University of Illinois at Chicago (essay)

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

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Digital Change-making: New Sources of Power and Hybrid Realities

By Jennifer Earl

I began researching digital protest during the 2000 Presidential Election by studying the strategic voting movement with Alan Schussman. Despite the invention and popularity of new platforms (e.g., Facebook and Twitter) and the expansion of mobile computing, most of what my collaborators and I have learned over the last decade and half reinforces the odd and unexpected findings that motivated Alan and I to push on sixteen years ago. Thus, instead of remarking on something that has changed in the last five years, as I was invited to do, I want to reinforce and amplify two shifts that have become ever more apparent over the last five years but have be applicable all along: (1) the importance of recognizing that flash activism is built on a different model of influence and power than traditional activism, and (2) the importance of recognizing the hybridity between online and offline life.

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