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The Arab Revolutions: A Scholarly and Political Dialogue With Benoit Challand

The CEU Campus
Monday, January 28, 2019, 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm

The Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology cordially invites you to the first lecture and discussion in our series on “Politics and Depoliticization”The Arab Revolutions: A Scholarly and Political DialogueWith Benoit Challand 



Against a history of revolutions and uprisings, the Arab Middle East is a formidable stage for radical politics. In this inaugural event of the lecture series, a prominent scholar of the Arab world will present his research and debate the past, present and future of revolutionary and post-revolutionary politics.

The Dialectics of State-Society Relations: Lessons from Post-2011 Tunisia and Yemen

A superficial study of political transformations in post-revolutionary Tunisia and Yemen might produce another facile assessment of “success” (Tunisia) and “failure” (Yemen). Looking deeper, in particular at the outcomes of the 2011 popular mobilization from a perspective of historical sociology, I will suggest that both countries share a similar difficulty in transforming genuine popular aspirations for democratic change into a new, more egalitarian political system. These difficulties are rooted in the dialectics of Arab state-society relations, characterized by a central authority not willing to grant autonomy to various societal forces, and by the dominant existence of what Michel Camau termed “negative citizenship”. I will show how the demands for, and processes of, decentralization after the popular uprisings of 2011 in Tunisia and Yemen (municipal elections in 2018 for the former, and the writing of a federalist constitution in 2015 for the latter) reveal a clear pattern of state-society relations that unites, rather than opposes these two countries. More largely, this comparative analysis contributes to the debates in social sciences around structural and cultural change.

Benoit Challand is an associate professor of sociology at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Florence. He holds degrees from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London and from the European University Institute in Florence. His work concentrates on civil society in the Arab world. He is author of Palestinian Civil Society: Foreign Donors and the Power to Promote and Exclude (Routledge, 2009), co-author of Imagining Europe: Myth, Memory and Identity (Cambridge UP, 2013), and co-editor of The Struggle for Influence in the Middle East: The Arab Uprisings and Foreign Assistance (Routledge, 2017).