Panel 4

“Political Subjectivities and the “Private World” in Post-Revolutionary Contexts”

(All informations below are from the website of the Scuola Normale Superiore)

Date and time: Thursday 1st December 2022 | 9:30 – 11:30 AM

Room: Altana Hall

1.) Discussant: Dr. Chaymaa Hassabo French Institute of the Near East based in Beirut

2.) “Thawra in the everyday lives. Ethnographies of the 17 October revolt in Lebanon”

Michele Scala – Sciences Po Lyon | CeSSRA-Beyrouth
Erminia Chiara Calabrese – Université de Tarragona Césor / EHES

Since the 17th of October of 2019, against the backdrop of a grave economic crisis that could be defined as one of the three most severe in the world since the middle of the 19th century (WB 2021), Lebanon experienced an unprecedented protest movement, both in terms of its geographical scope and its social composition, and calling into question the entire political order.

By refuting any teleological temptation or “illusion” (Dobry 2007, Bennani-Chraïbi and Fillieule 2012), and by extending the work around a processual analysis of revolutionary movements in the Arab worlds, this proposal intends to offer a change of focus on the protest phenomena that have been of interest in the region for the past decade. Starting from the October 2019 movement in Lebanon, which has passed into common speech with the term thawra (revolution), this paper questions what an extra-ordinary collective event does to the ordinary relationship to politics in the arenas of contestation within political parties and the world of work. By ordinary relationship to politics we mean, with François Buton, ‘the daily, and therefore largely routine, instituted relationships that individuals have […] with politics’ (Buton, 2016, p.160). By reversing the perspective, the aim of this paper is to question what the revolt signified and produced within the ‘private world’ (Schwartz, 2012) of activists and workers, rather than questioning, as many of the works have done, what produced it. We will question how the October 2019 revolt impacted on the collective and individual trajectories of workers and activists.

Drawing from Julie Pagis work on May ’68 in France, this contribution aims to understand, using ethnographic methods (conversations, interviews and observations), the dynamics of the encounter between ordinary time and the ‘critical moment’ (Bourdieu, 1984), by articulating ‘what happens upstream of the crisis and what is played out during the course of the events’ (Pagis, 2014, p. 22), based on actors who were involved in the crisis, with varying degrees of exposure to the event, more or less intense, more or less repeated and regular and coming from different social background.  

2.) “New Social Movements in Morocco: Journey of activists”

Imane Benyoussef – Hassan II University

It is known that the Arab Spring inspired several actions across the Arab world that attempted to bring about change in political systems. In that way, Morocco witnessed different uprisings including the movement of February 20th 2011, the Hirak in 2016 and the Boycott campaign in 2018. Several studies have focused on the political and social reasons that lead to activism, others studied the consequences of social movements on societies, while others have looked in depth at the different profiles of revolutionaries, leaders and actors of several movements throughout history.

In a more recent context, we decided to continue these studies by working with various activists of the above-mentioned uprisings in Morocco and trace their paths from childhood with the aim of trying to understand how their social backgrounds influenced the process of joining a movement and how their lives changed after those protests. To do this, we adopted an individualistic approach to study closely the journeys and the rationality of the different actors before they adopted the militant path and how they evolved after the protests. Using qualitative methodology, we led biographic interviews with eighteen activists from the 20th February Movement of different social categories and political affiliations. We decided to present these different paths highlighting the key elements that kindled activism and how the latter evolved throughout the different stages of their lives: childhood, teenage years and young adulthood (between 18 -24 y.o., then 25- 37 y.o.).

Several similarities were noticed in these activists’ early paths despite the various orientations they have adopted afterwards: the institutions they have been through, religious affiliation /beliefs, indignation, quest for identity, discovering philosophical readings that helped interpreting social and political events, taking part in movements for the first time which helped intensifying their feelings of acting in real life as militants etc.

3.) “Revolutionary Chronicles: Women participants bearing the brunt of the Egyptian Revolution”

Sarah ElMasry – Scuola Normale Superiore

Revolutionary times are messy. They are often marked by violent political and social upheavals that intervene in the lives of revolutionaries and ordinary participants alike. Egypt’s revolutionary episode in 2011 was no exception; its “Midan moments” functioned as “transformative” events that upended the private lives of its participants (Ayata & Harders 2019). Against this backdrop, this paper uses life history interviews to sketch the trajectories of participation of three non-activist women, from their foray into politics to disengagement. It parses their biographies and traces the roots of their resistant subjectivities underlining how the revolutionary times came to catalyze their transformation, but also cast shadows on their private lives. Enmeshed in their revolutionary chronicles were traumatic moments of gendered violence from sexual assaults to domestic violence experienced firsthand or witnessed from afar. The echoes of these personal and public violent episodes continue to “reverberate ” throughout the private sphere of these women shaping their feminine subjectivities and post-revolutionary paths and choices (Neveu & Fuilliue 2019). The paper argues that revolutionary times interlaced with personal temporalities has produced long term biographical consequences that, at times, scarred the affective ties these women have, but also empowered them to negotiate their boundaries while still living in Egypt.

4.) “”Change Algeria, change your life”. The effects of mobilizations on the paths of three activists (2011-2021)”

Layla Baamara – Institut de recherche sur le Maghreb contemporain (IRMC) | ERC-DREAM

In this contribution, I question the relationship between two significant protest mobilizations experienced by three individuals and the personal changes in their life paths observed during and between these two events. In 2011, Lina, Nassim and Youssef were students in Algiers and actively participated in the protest movements. They were between 19 and 24 years old and came from working or middle-class backgrounds. The intense and daily participation in the protests represents an unprecedented experience for these three young students. When I met and followed them in 2011, they presented their experience as exceptional both in terms of belief in the possibility of change and their collective and individual practices. After the mobilizations fizzled out, all three continued their protest engagement at the university or in other activist structures (feminist association, neighbourhood, opposition political party) and on Facebook, with more or less intensity. In 2019, the popular uprising in Algeria, as sudden as it was massive, disrupted their lives once again. The high-intensity mobilizations of 2011 and 2019 bracket a decade in the lives of these three activists.

How did these two intense and disruptive moments transform their lives? Beyond the activists’ commitments, the longitudinal research through biographical interviews invites us to explore what types of effects these events produce in the private spheres of the individuals’ lives. By comparing these three paths, I question how the events of 2011 and 2019 have affected friendships, professional trajectories and family situations. I then explore the traces that mobilizations leave in private life or, instead, how mobilizations also take shape in the intimacy of individuals.

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