Call for Papers

Liminality on the Rainbow: the multiple shades of transition in times of social upheaval

Place: Faculté des Lettres et des Sciences Humaines, University of Sousse

Time: NEW – 31.3.- 1.4.2017 (old: 1.-2.4.2017) (a detailed schedule will follow soon)

Due Date for Abstracts: 15.2.2017

The DAAD research group “The Maghreb in Transition: Media, Knowledge and Power” organizes in partnership with the University of Munich, the University of Sousse and Mohamed V University an international symposium entitled “Liminality on the Rainbow”. books-1655783_1280This transcultural and transdisciplinary symposium aims at putting to task the concept of transition as it operates in relation to the events (past and future) marking the Maghreb before, during and after the uprisings of 2011. It seeks to readdress the question of transitionality not simply as a random temporal moment, but as an event (episodic situation or factual experience) situated at the intersection of other clashing and blending cultural, social, economic and political practices. The concept of transition is an essential but complex dimension of uprising. It captures the proceedings within the liminal stage betwixt the event of uprising and ultimate materialization of the sceneries of new social realities, and the signs of different political landscapes. To be sure, the rather jumbled and willful deployment of the term in instances of social mobility has emptied transition of its plurality, reducing it to a simple colloquialism for all indeterminate forms of social and political alterations and progressions.

Consequently, a few legitimate questions arise:

Is transition in times of peace akin to transition in times of revolt? Does transition have an exact meaning or does it repeatedly fail to aspire for a semantic exactitude? Does it signify a changeover? A passage? A growth? Is it a shift or is a total metastasis? Does it imply a modification in prevalent realities or a decisive transference thereof from them? Is a transition a revolution? Is it a crucial moment or a provisory bridge to a (non)crucial moment? Is it a moment of truth or a constellation of mendacities? Is it the beginning of a crisis or the end of it or none? Is it a point of no return or a pointless return to the status quo? To put it differently, is transition a culmination into something new and novel or simply an anti-climax? Is a switch to change or a switch off of it?

Towards a fruitful debate around these questions, it is necessary to underscore the heterogeneity of transitional practices subsequent to trans-local uprisings. Far from speaking about one transitional narrative or situation one could interject a multiplicity of interdepended transitionalities.

In view of the foregoing, we could talk of transitions that may include but that are not restricted to:

a) Mediatic transitions, b) Emotive transitions, c) Devotional transitions, d) Dimensional transitions, e) Epistemic transitions, f) Litigious transitions

a) Mediatic transitions

The media were commonly assumed to be crucial in the making of the so-called “Arab uprising”. Within this general deducement, it was particularly the new media that appeared to transpire the promise of liberation and to wrench the collective and individual imagination away from the authoritarian, post-colonial state by giving voice to the marginalized – a process often seen concomitant to the fragmentation and democratization of the hegemonic public sphere.

A panel could be formed within this enunciation with the purpose of revisiting the role of media in processes of transition. By exploring the ways the media and politics entangle as well as how they tie in with one another, this panel can investigate a number of questions: What are the underlying narratives and imaginaries that ascribe the media their innate power for political change? What are the cultural and historical genealogies of these narratives? How do these imaginaries and narratives translate into political practice? The fields , among others, that facilitate the investigation of these and other issues are religion and secularism, gender and generation, and centrality and marginality.

b) Emotive transitions

Papers are welcome that deal with the role of emotions in generating modes of change. It is necessary as we deal with a pre/post-uprising period to study the ways emotions like anger, despair, humiliation, shame, etc., culminate into a situation of revolt, leading to a partial or total reconstitution of the now and here. Papers within the emotive transitions panel could also trigger the ways situations of transition could also be occasions for remembering the past, which entails gestures of forgiving and forgetting of past injuries and emotional bruises. Participants are encouraged to dwell, for instance, on the reconciliatory role of remembering the tyrannies of the old regimes and explore how a return to the past serves the futuristic legacies of the post-2011 structures of power.

c) Devotional transitions

This panel could examine how emotions for change could be supplemented by certain strategies of devotion to particular categories of faith, which would lead to a number of doctrinal attitudes that aspire to mark the transitional phase. The Tahrir square for example, prior to the fall of Mubarak, knew the presence of different devotional groups (atheists, secularists, Christian, Muslim (ikhwanists, salafists)) that sought to promote ideas of revolt within recognizable systems of belief. These groups in Egypt and elsewhere could not think of transitionality in isolation from religion. Perceptions of faith, needless to say, are essentially linked to practices of reform. The media, state, and the people (shaab) get involved in a tag of wars in which each and every group hopes to patronize the (non) religious discourse that would best sustain its economic and political ambitions.

d) Dimensional transitions

By dimensional we refer to the manner by which power relations maintain discourses of marginality and centrality. The magnitude by which the scales of highness and lowliness among social, cultural and political structures evolves is contingent on particular measuring strategies along the dichotomies of centre and periphery. As centre and periphery cannot be taken for granted as irreversible truths, it is important to examine their volatilities and uncertainties, which as instable signs, can also be subject to the dimensional weight within which they operate. Therefore, we invite papers that address society’s dimensionalities of power and powerlessness, as well as the processes by which they are constructed and maintained. We are not only interested in analysing the methods through which marginality and centrality are engendered, but also in the events, circumstances and practices that cause the subversion of these seemingly fixed binaries from below. It is essential to measure the limits of power and counter-power; it is equally crucial to reflect, in the course of such commitment, on where categories like centre/margin/power/powerlessness begin and where they end.

e) Epistemic transitions

This panel focuses on the shifting place of science – of its dominant institutions, established disciplines, theories, practices and practitioners – in processes of political transitions. It seeks to unravel the continuities and changing conditions that affect the production and circulation of (non-)academic knowledge both in and on a “Maghreb in transition”. It would hence be crucial to examine the mutual effects and interdependencies between politics and science or, more broadly, between knowledge and power “on the move”. At this level of critical dissection, a few questions need to examined: How did the pre-2011 authoritarian context affect the production and circulation of (non-)academic knowledge? To what extent have these conditions been subject to change since 2011? And what can – or should be – the role of science and its entrepreneurs in the process of political transitions?

Given our call/conference’s multilateral and comparative character, the panel suggests to read the notion of „transitionalities“ not only temporally, but also spatially. This perspective pursues, among others things, problems of translatability and maneuverability: How can theories travel from the pristine historical and political setting in which they have been articulated first to a new context – without losing their critical edge? Is thus one right to think that science in transition requires a transition in science? And if yes: how can/should we re-adapt the poetics and pragmatics of our style(s) of thought to the predicaments of post-authoritarian regimes and their neo-liberal shades?

f) Litigious transitions

The litigious is that which is centred on the element of conflict. What are the circumstances and factors that turn political and social realities arguable? We welcome original contributions that examine the forms of knowledge (media, constitution, cultural customs, social representations) that inform and guide transitions at a particular historical juncture. Transitionalities are also conflict-laden; they trigger the dislodging of grand narratives, which permits the emergence of opportunities in which repressed (hi)stories gain visibility, and, at times, durable spaces of (inter)action. Consider, for instance, how social media networks have managed during and after the uprisings, to construct alternative foundations of information/knowledge, as well as workable sites for the mobilization of popular action/thinking. Transitions are informed by the way social, political, cultural, media spaces grow into theatres of litigation; it is hence imperative to come to grips not only with these systems of litigation, but also with the new meanings they offer on and the multiple interpretations they weave out around concepts such as margin, centre, media, locality, reform, resistance, discourse, and representation.

Abstracts are invited in English to examine the liminal conditions of uprising in the Maghreb and its transitional domains.

The abstracts (which should have a maximum of 300 words), together with a short biographical notice should be sent via mail to, and, and  until February, 15th 2017.

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