Reflections on new forms of activism in North Africa since 2011
Place: Faculty of Arts & Humanities, University of Sousse
Date: May 11th to 12st
Seven years after the Arab Spring, the forms, languages, spaces and temporalities of protest have witnessed considerable alterations. Seven years after the Arab Spring, unrest in the region still looms large. The politician, the ruler, the ruled, the academic, the wise and the fool still itch for answers as to what happened, foregrounding a deep-seated need to figure out what will happen next in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and beyond. The unremitting branching off of protest events in the region is a clear indication that the militants for change will hardly have enough plate of their demands nor enough response for their queries.
During these seven years, there were moments in which transformation occurred and unoccured, in which transition transpired and ceased, in which reform was found and lost, and in which revolution succeeded and failed. Despite all disappointment, we cannot possibly speak of the absence of outcomes at the political, social and cultural levels. Resistance-driven consciousness among the masses is growing incredibly, captured daily by the camcorders of anonymous citizens, by the initiatives of social media networkers, by the artistic productions of casual pavement-bound participants. The growing rates of this consciousness have a tremendous impact on the actual conceptual understanding of struggle today. They continue to trigger more questions about the limits of power, the demarcations of change, the location of transgression, and the future of the nation. Situated against and aware of this complex background, it is necessary to ponder the meaning of change-centred endeavours that mark the people’s everyday conversation with power. It is equally important to comprehend the new meanings that keep shooting through the field of activism as we know it. At this level a few questions need to be addressed: What are the arrangements of struggle today? How does “shaʿab” adapt and respond to the failure of revolt? How does power get involved in locations of dissent (virtual and physical)? What are the characteristics of activism today? Where does activism begin and where does it end? What meanings can we allocate to activism in the surfacing of conceptual categories such as leadership, heroism, martyrdom, neo-patriotism? How does activism blur the line between the individual and community? How do the constituents of activism, like spaciality, sociality and temporality, govern contemporary revolt situations and get governed by them?
This workshop is geared towards the understanding of the conditions, actors, and by-products of activism today. Campaigning for protest is no longer contingent on fixed constituents, such as fixed spaces, fixed leadership, and fixed temporalities. In Morocco, livid consumers have recently started a nationwide boycotting campaign to dispute the exorbitant prices of daily consumables like mineral water, milk, and gas. The boycott which emanated from twitter and facebook through videos, images and memes, soon found a receptive audience in and great support from society at large. Whether these forms of activism get promoted by power structures to settle political conflicts or reflect the “voice of the people”, we cannot lose sight of the fact that they bring new strategies of protest into play on the social front that deserve to be measured academically.
This brings us to the other equally important objective of this workshop, which is the encounter between sociopolitical activism and academia. Questions about the role of the university in arresting the spirit of the street will be underscored by creating a contact zone that allows the blending and clashing of the voices of academic fellows and civil society members. This is a deliberate experimental gesture that expresses the need to throw the fieldwork subject and researcher together. The plugging together of the researcher and his/her subject of research is meant to blur the edges marking binaries such as outsider/insider, subject of research/conductor of research, fieldwork/university, and academic/activist. The workshop hence heightens the consciousness of both the academician and activist regarding the markings that frame his roles, functions and responsibilities; it allows for moments of self-reflection that help their question-therefore transcend-their archetypal idiosyncrasies.
“The Maghreb in Transition” is a multilateral and interdisciplinary research partnership between the Universities of Sousse, Carthage and La Manouba in Tunisia, the Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah (Fez), Hassan II. (Casablanca), Al Akhawayn University (Ifrane) and the Institut National de Statistique et d’Economie Appliquée (Rabat) in Morocco, and the Ludwig-Maximilian University in Germany. The partnership is sponsored by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the German Federal Foreign Office.
For further information, contact Dr. Moulay Driss El Maarouf (firstname.lastname@example.org), Dr. Ramzi Ben Amara (email@example.com), or Dr. des. Amir Hamid (firstname.lastname@example.org).