States and Social Movements: Revisiting Western Based Social Movement Theories in the Context of the Middle East

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 11:15
Oral Presentation
Gulay KILICASLAN, York University, Canada
Since 2009 the Middle East region has been going through a massive transformation. These remarkable changes concretized through a widespread social uprising around the region from the Green Movement in Iran to the Arab Spring affirming the people’s power in Tahrir Square and elsewhere and the Gezi resistance in Taksim Square in Istanbul. However, more recently, these uprisings have transitioned into devastation, as it is most visible in Syrian case. In analyzing these developments in the region from a social movement perspective, there have been many discussions around contention under authoritarianism, repertoires of contention, advantages of movement-centered vs. institutional-centered analysis of movements etc. These discussion reflects a re-direction in analytical and theoretical focus that corresponds to a larger problem about the production of knowledge on the popular movements in the non-Western world, specifically the Middle East. The problematic stems from the analysis of the powerful and the visible social and political actors or exceptional events in contentious politics without locating them within a larger historical or political context or trajectory.

With this in mind, this paper aims to explore whether the social movement theories developed within the European and the U.S. contexts are useful to comprehend the urban popular movements in non-Western, especially in the Middle Eastern countries. In doing so, there is a need to understand how regime/repertoire relations work under repressive state contexts and how these relations transform states into more repressive institutional apparatuses. Given these two points of inquiries, mapping out the characteristics, advantages and limitations of social movement theories embedded within the Western context will provide an opportunity to question the methodological and epistemological validity of them regarding the non-Western contexts. This will also bring an alternative way to extend and revise existing social movement theories based on the U.S. and European experiences.