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Edited by Hein-Anton van der Heijden
Chapter 26: Political citizenship and social movements in the Arab world
In 2010 and 2011 the Middle East and North Africa (MENA region) captured world attention as people rose up en masse to end the regimes that had suppressed and humiliated them for so long. This was expressed in the slogan ‘The people demand the fall of the system’. The people (al-sha‘b) as agency were back. Their aspirations were expressed in the demand for dignity (karama), ending corruption, implementing justice and creating jobs. The remarkable aspect of the uprisings was that the demands were made by people who regarded themselves as citizens (muwatinun). I will argue that the Middle East has indeed changed and that these changes have been on the cards for a long time. But not only are the Arab uprisings a turning point for the Middle East, they have also been so for Middle East studies. Two long-neglected fields of research, citizenship studies and social movement theory, can help to re-analyze Middle Eastern history over the past two centuries. Applying citizenship studies and social movement theory has several advantages over other orientations that have dominated the academic field during the past decades.
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