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BIPR | Revolution and Counter-Revolution in the Middle East and North Africa
Revolution and Counter-Revolution in the Middle East and North Africa

October 14, 2021 - 18:30

Paola Rivetti, Dublin City University, Ireland

Event Recap

The discussion begins with Dr. Paola Rivetti noting that there are two main topics she will be talking about: the formation of revolutionary and anti-revolutionary fronts and what is spurring social movements across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. She delves into the idea that the uprisings have played a role in the formation of anti-revolutionary fronts and supports this idea by highlighting the importance of the precarity that accompanies uprisings. The uncertainty and level of unrest that uprisings invoke in a society can empower workers and other social groups to come together to fight against social conditions they are unsatisfied with and work to create a better status quo for themselves and others. As a result, she notes that the middle class has been an important counter-revolutionary actor in many contexts in the post-2011 era, wanting stability and a return to some form of normalcy. While individuals studying revolutions often analyze revolutions from the perspective of the nation-state, Rivetti also asserts that there is much to be gained from moving beyond nation-state politics and looking more closely at the role sub-state actors play in revolutions. Equally, supra-national perspectives can help us look beyond well-established assumptions about state's inclination towards revolutionary politics. Iran is a case in point, as the country has played a large role in supporting regimes and governments in place in contexts like Lebanon and Iraq, where incumbent political authorities were challenged by mounting, revolutionary popular mobilisations.

Rivetti then discusses the question of what happens when we have revolutionary processes that do not result in revolutionary outcomes. She emphasizes the importance of the fact that revolutionary processes often do not end in revolutionary outcomes. Instead, they often create small transformations by creating cracks in the existing system and provoking change in these areas. As sufficient time passes and enough of these cracks are exploited, civil society is able to build an alternative form of sovereignty that more closely aligns with the initially hoped for revolutionary outcome. She then discusses how many of these revolutionary uprisings have organically been linked to global struggles revolving around race, environmentalism, resources, and neoliberal capitalism, and how these uprisings have also had a global impact by creating awareness of systemic and intersectional injustice.

Rivetti concludes her presentation by bringing up salient points for future thought and conversation. She questions the extent to which the Arab uprisings have actually ended. She also raises the question of how our understanding of regional politics might change, should borders and our perspectives on what geographically counts as the region shift. She believes the idea of regions needs to be rethought and that greater attention should be paid to relations between various MENA countries as opposed to relations between MENA countries and European countries. She also highlights that the idea of democracy has changed over the past ten years, moving away from an emphasis on procedural issues to focusing on issues such as social justice and wealth redistribution. This shift will likely play a large role in shaping revolutionary processes moving forward.

Full Audio:

Revolution and Counter-Revolution in the Middle East and North Africa
The Middle East 10 Years after the Uprisings Series

hosted by Professor Raffaella A. Del Sarto

Paola Rivetti
Dublin City University, Ireland

Paola Rivetti is Associate Professor in Politics and International Relations in the School of Law and Government, Dublin City University.

She holds a PhD in History and Social Sciences from the University of Siena and an MA in Political Science and International Relations from the University of Turin. She has held positions at Milano Bicocca, the Catholic University of Milan, Ecole de Management de Normandie, Bogazi├ži University, Laval University, the University of Montreal (UdeM) and the University of Palermo.

Rivetti's research interests focus on the government of societies and polities in the Middle East and North Africa from a comparative perspective, and on social and political mobilisations.

She is the author of Political Participation in Iran from Khatami to the Green Movement (2020) and the co-editor of Islamists and the Politics of the Arab Uprisings: Governance, Pluralisation and Contention (with H. Kraetzschmar, 2018) and Continuity and change before and after the Arab uprisings: Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt (with R. Di Peri, 2015). Her latest publication is the co-edited special issue of the journal Partecipazione e conflitto, entitled "Revolution and Counter-Revolution in the Middle East and North Africa".

Rivetti is a member of the council of the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies and chairperson of the Irish Network for MENA Studies. She is Associate Editor of the journal Iranian Studies and a member of the editorial boards of the journal i>Partecipazione e conflitto and the blog Lavoro culturale.
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