Despite the overthrow of autocratic rulers during the Arab popular uprisings of 2010–2011, the Middle East and North Africa have experienced continued upheaval over the last decade. In this essay, Joel Beinin examines why the Arab Spring was unable to adequately address diverse economic and social issues across different nations and establish stable alternatives to their regimes. Beinin argues that “mere procedural democracy,” “rebranded neoliberal economic policies,” and disconnect between the working class and the educated urban middle class have prevented the majority population from achieving their economic, social, and cultural aims.
From Our Fellows
The SSRC has been providing funding to researchers at all stages of their academic and professional careers for more than 90 years. Through a highly competitive and rigorous peer-review process, the SSRC has awarded over 15,000 fellowships and grants to support research around the globe. From Our Fellows focuses on emerging research in the social sciences, including intersections with the humanities and natural sciences, by recipients of SSRC funding. The SSRC’s fellowships, grants, and prizes improve conditions for social science knowledge production worldwide.
A decade after the 2011 Yemeni revolution, Yemen enters its seventh year in a civil-and-proxy war that has caused a severe humanitarian crisis with millions of Yemenis suffering from famine, facing internal displacement, and depending on humanitarian aid. In this essay, Nathalie Peutz reflects on the changing desires of marginalized Yemenis who, during the revolution, had protested for full citizenship rights, but now in wartime seek refugee status. As refugees describe experiencing more rights in camps than they once had in Yemen, Peutz argues that “refugee” has transformed into an ascendant status, capturing the “hopes and disappointments” of postrevolution Yemen.
Through the lens of Egypt’s “Spirit of Tahrir Square” ten years on, Yasmin Moll reflects on the intersection of Islam and creative arts, as it connects to the way Egyptians give meaning to their public and private lives and consider a “New Egypt.” Rather than proclaim that something is singularly “Islamic” or “creative” or “revolutionary,” it is more meaningful, Moll argues, to consider the shifting categories—these thick concepts—and the impact these shifts have on Egyptian lives.
A decade after the uprisings that saw the end of dictatorship in Tunisia, the promise of democracy remains unfulfilled, particularly for Tunisian women. Examining the dynamics of justice in cases of gender violence, Ola Galal looks at how Tunisian women use social media to challenge the entrenched tendencies to ignore violence against women through online campaigns like #EnaZeda. However, as Galal argues, women in rural areas seldom benefit from these digital mechanisms for redress.
Complicating the social theory that presumes increased urbanization means greater political progress and inclusion, Simeon J. Newman’s analysis of working-class political participation in twentieth-century Mexico City unveils how rapid urban concentration can lead to political clientelism. While many rural migrants to the city brought revolutionary ideals, these were stymied by their increased dependency on local leaders to mediate between poor urban dwellers and elected officials and government bureaucrats for services and land security.