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Whose Political Imaginary? Insights from Decolonial Epistemologies to Explicate the Arab Spring Uprisings
Many scholars of the Arab spring uprisings have interrogated the modest harvest of these uprisings. Some of the attributes of their analyses included critiques that revolutionary actors in the region were: 1) action-oriented more than goal-oriented; 2) occupied with anti-hierarchical modes of mobilization more than focused on winning revolutionary organizing; 3) very naïve about the viciousness of counterrevolutions; and 4) immersed in the spectacle of action rather than focused on developing an effective strategy or plan for change, among other things. In short, Arab revolutionaries lacked the radical political imaginaries to make political and social change in the same fashion of classical social and successful democratic revolutions in the 19th and 20th centuries. While these attributes may be descriptively correct, I argue, much of the scholarship on the Arab Spring uprisings is shaped by key problems that deemed it incapable of explaining the complex trajectories of the uprisings. These problems include the fact that much of the canonical studies of revolutions: 1) started off as Eurocentric (and the dominant historiography of revolution has remained so); 2) poorly theorize the role of international politics in revolutions; 3) comprise a very thin understanding of counterrevolutions; and 4) under-theorize time, temporality, and the historical contextual difference between so-called classical/social revolution, democratic revolutions, and revolutions in the neoliberal/postmodern era. Rather than simply blaming Arab revolutionary actors or much Western scholarship on the Arab Spring, and bearing in mind insights from decolonial epistemologies, I propose that a better analytical alternative is: 1) to liberate canonical scholarship on revolutions from its Eurocentric references; and 2) to re-interrogate what we mean by revolutionary imaginary in the neoliberal/postmodern era. A new critical political imaginary of revolutions today should include a ticker analysis of: 1) the intersection of economic justice and democracy today; 2) the multiscale nature of counterrevolutions; 3) the contradictory role of technology in relation to mobilization; and 4) the complex nature of postcolonial states and their positions in the new imperial and neoliberal order. In doing so, we will have a better grasp of the role of revolutionary agencies, their imaginaries, and the contradictory structures of revolutions today.
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Arab States
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