In events that have since become known as the Arab Uprisings or Arab Revolutions,
people across the Middle East took to the streets to express their anger and
frustration at political climates, demanding political and economic reform. In a
number of cases, protest movements were repressed, often violently, with
devastating repercussions for human security and peace across the
region. While a number of scholars have sought to understand how the
protests occurred, this book looks at sovereignty and the relationship between
rulers and ruled to identify and understand both the roots of this anger but
also the mechanisms through which regimes were able to withstand seemingly
existential pressures and maintain power.
not necessarily the literal manifestation
of Agamben’s bare life, political meaning had been stripped from groups across the
region, wherein individuals are bound by the laws of the state yet not protected by such
laws. For Agamben, once in this position, there is no escape and one should accept the
position of ‘being thus’.2 Yet looking across the region in the early months of 2011, it
was difficult to view events as the acceptance of the status quo. Instead, what quickly
became known as the ArabUprisings was seen as the rejection of being thus and the
Houses built on sand
The crisis consists in the fact that the old [order] is dying and the new cannot be
born; in this interregnum a large variety of morbid symptoms appear.
Antonio Gramsci, Passato e presente
Ana wa akhi ala ibn ammi, ana wa ibn ammi ala algharib.
[My brother and I against our cousin, my cousin and I against a stranger.]
An old Beouin saying
In the fallout from the ArabUprisings, a number of parallels have been drawn with the
Thirty Years’ War across Europe in the seventeenth century.1 Take the opening lines of
an article by Richard
the protests emerged from state-building processes, which
facilitated the widespread repression that followed the uprisings. Although a number
of regimes created bare life in an attempt to end the protest movements, this was
not always successful. Instead, because of the existence of strong normative currents
across the region, further mechanisms of control were deemed necessary. This chapter
traces regime responses in the aftermath of the ArabUprisings, beginning with the
declaration of emergency powers before moving to consideration of securitising
increasingly difficult in such contexts, where the spread of identities and religious
groups provides opportunities for a range of actors to wield influence and highlights
the fragility of states across the region. It is this struggle to regulate life amid instances
of contested sovereignty across the Middle East that is the main focus of this book.
A growing body of work quickly emerged in the aftermath of the ArabUprisings,
the spate of protests that cut across the Middle East in early 2011. The literature on
the uprisings spans a range of different theoretical
the ArabUprisings where violence was used to crush protest movements, seemingly
whatever the cost.
The fragmentation of sovereign borders and retreat into communal identities
collapsed domestic and regional politics into new spaces of the political that placed
regime survival above human security, albeit not curtailed by territorial borders.
Following regime responses to the uprisings, intractable conflicts have emerged,
becoming all-encompassing, dividing societies and communities along political lines.
Socio-economic contexts add additional
repercussions across the region, as a consequence of the spread of identities across
the Middle East, meaning that what happens within the borders of one state can have
Reverberations from events such as the establishment of the state of Israel, the
Suez Crisis, the 1967 war, the Iranian Revolution, the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the 2005
Cedar Revolution and the ArabUprisings were felt across the Middle East, shaping
the regional security environment. The establishment of states, either in an attempt
to politically represent an existing nationality, or
. Keane , ‘ Syria: The Boys Who Helped Spark a
Revolution ’, BBC (13
April 2013 ), http://bbc.in/2bGPPwq . Accessed 25
J. Bowen , The ArabUprisings: The People Want the Fall of
the Regime ( London : Simon & Schuster , 2012 ).
relationship between sects and broader
political communities. These periods correspond with crises in regional politics: the
Iranian Revolution, the Iraq War and the ArabUprisings.
The mobilisation and manipulation of sect-based identities for political reasons has
been a common feature of political life. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, sect-
based identities were mobilised for political purposes, both domestic and regional,
as regimes attempt to exert control and influence and, ultimately seek to ensure their
survival. Speaking to constituents is one means through
processes are ongoing as regimes seek
to maintain power and people engage with the structures of politics. Following
decades of exception and bare life, the ArabUprisings became an outlet for much of
the frustration people had with governance structures regulating life, resulting in a
struggle between regimes and societies and the (further) marginalisation of particular
identities for domestic, regional and international audiences.
Put another way, the state of exception begot the state of exception, while bare life
begot bare life. As noted in The Kingdom and The Glory