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New Models for Citizenship and Statehood

Session XIII-13, 2022 Annual Meeting

On Sunday, December 4 at 1:30 pm

Panel Description
  • The states of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are undergoing changes perhaps as momentous as those in the period when most of them were founded following World War I. A variety of basic features of the state are being questioned from within. Should the state present itself as ethnic, or should it embrace ethnic diversity? Should the state promote or retreat from religion? Should the state’s authority reside mainly in a center, or should it devolve and cede much of its power to federated regions? Should women have the same rights as men, or continue to have fewer rights? How does the state define citizenship, and how does it acquire new citizens? In this paper, I focus on roles that I see Kurdistan, the non-state ethnic homeland of the Kurds, playing in this process of questioning. I argue that one of its quadrants, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, is currently playing the role of heuristic. Since 1991, it has been the site of questioning along the aforementioned lines following the withdrawal of a dictatorship and the assumption of leadership by new actors. In the Kurdistan Region, observers in the surrounding states can see and learn from a self-governing breakaway region. Many have pointed out that it is a model or possible model for the other three Kurdistans, and this is especially evident in the case of Rojava. But I posit here that the Kurdistan Region of Iraq is and will be a model for others as well, as Iraq, Syria, and other MENA states continue to move away from a centralized state model. Some are currently sites of violent conflict, and contests that may rage on for decades. In this process, new units of sovereignty will be seen to emerge and new questions about the rights or duties of citizens will come to the fore. Because it was an early example of regional self-governance within the modern Middle Eastern state, leaders and citizens in these new units will then continue to learn from the example of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, even as the Region itself continues to be a place of evolving forms of citizenship and governance.
  • The literacy campaign in contemporary Iran is one of the most important institutions that mobilized millions of Iranians either as teachers or learners from 1964 until the present and has parallels worldwide. Yet, it is marginalized in studies of the causes and consequences of the 1979 revolution. A few scholarly works that examined adult education did so by exclusively focusing on the efficiency of pedagogical systems, textbooks’ content, and teaching methods in increasing functional and sustained literacy among adults. This leaves a significant lacuna in understanding the state’s efforts in citizen-making through this public platform. Focusing on adult education’s mobilization and political socialization aspects, this paper addresses the campaign’s crucial role in creating new citizens in the Iranian rural and urban areas. This paper takes us back to the transformative years before and after the fall of the Pahlavi shah in 1979 to trace the history and evolution of the literacy campaigns as grassroots and institutions mobilizing adults in the countryside and poor neighborhoods on the margins of the cities. Unlike the Islamic Republic of Iran that touted the literacy campaign as a unique initiative invented by Ayatollah Khomeini, I recognize the postrevolutionary adult education as a continuation of the Pahlavi literacy campaign. Locating this campaign in the early 1960s instead of the early 1980s allows us to identify the evolution of this campaign beyond state change and track the continuity of the several decades of the states’ efforts in citizen-making through adult education in Iran. I argue that both the Pahlavi Literacy Corps (Sepah-e Danesh) and the IRI’s Literacy Movement (Nehzat-e Savadamuzi) functioned as a vehicle for creating new citizens, though the former influenced by “modernization theory” stressed on making “modern and civilized citizen,” and the latter influenced by the discourse of “pedagogy of oppressed” aspired to create “revolutionary and independent citizen.” Interestingly, even the rhetoric used by the Pahlavi and IRI’s leaders was the same in promoting what they called “Literacy Jihad” for “eradicating ignorance” and “fighting the darkness.” Relying on a combination of textual analysis, archival research, oral history, and testimonies of campaign participants and learners, this paper shows how the literacy campaign in both regimes was instrumentalized to produce what the states considered as the “ideal” citizen.
  • This paper attempts to theorize what IS’s discursive articulations of the umma and caliphate entail in terms of an ideological vision of political community and statehood and what consequences this has for the prevalent modern normative ideology of nationalism, and its products of the nation and nation state. I contend that IS articulates a unique vision of political community and state that I term umma-caliphalism whose (counter-)hegemonic, universalistic, and expansionist nature entails a thorough process of what I call de-nationization. Theoretically counterposed to nationalism ideology on the grounds of sovereignty, membership, territoriality, and temporality, this umma-caliphalist vision mandates materially dismantling the very institutional structure of the nation state and eliminating its symbols and apparatus of sovereign authority. Symbolically, having rejected nationalism and stripped the nation off its sovereignty (i.e. state), IS envisions undoing the nation as a form of imagined political community by officially treating it as an ethnie or a mode of ethnic cultural unit. This entails rejecting the politicization of ethnic cultural symbols and identity and their utilization for political mobilization and collective pursuit of sovereign institutional realization, either as a fully-fledged state or autonomous self-rule on the basis of ethnic particularism within IS’s imagined caliphate. The argument I make here is distinct from the prior scholarship that either lays out the general characteristics of IS’s vision of political community and statehood, conflates it with nationalism, explores its un-Islamicness, or despite affirming its opposition to nationalism falls short of thoroughly explaining this on theoretical grounds (Kaneva & Stanton, 2020; Low 2016; Mikami, 2019; Nagata, 2019; Piscatori & Saikal, 2019). I organize the paper’s investigation on the difference(s) between IS’s discourse of the umma and caliphate with the nation and nation state around four analytical categories: membership (the symbolic boundaries of the community and the form of solidarity it is built upon); sovereignty (the locus and scope of exercise of power); territoriality (the physical boundaries of the political community and the state to be established); and temporality (the time and historical trajectory of the political community). I conduct a multi-perspectival discourse analysis (combining Wodak et al.’s Discourse-Historical Analysis with Laclau and Mouffe’s Discourse Theory) of a large corpus of IS communication output—115 print-style articles and 17 audio and video messages in various languages such as English, Arabic, Kurdish, and Turkish—released between 2013 and June 2019.
  • The Istanbul Bar Association played a key safeguarding role in the 2019 recount election that culminated in the first electoral victory of the city after the-25 years-reign of the authoritarian Justice and Development party (JDP). The article showcases the bar’s leading role in Istanbul’s municipal electoral victory as attorneys mobilized and spearheaded the city’s local politics of resistance. Using mixed qualitative methods of ethnography, interviews and media and discourse analysis, our field research analyzes why and how the Bar adopted strategies to defend democracy. The article bridges urban and legal studies which have often talked past each other. We reveal and examine the recent shift of the Bar from a loyal pro-state organization to a democratic political actor that arduously resists the authoritarian rule. We argue that the Bar’s political shift from the legal space (courts) and legal discourse to urban resistance and democratic discourse transformed the relationship between the legal profession and the state. An in-depth look through the window of the Bar's transformation into an urban democratic political actor provides a key to win against the right-wing populist authoritarian regimes that have persistently ruled for extended time periods across the world.
  • Mr. Bilgehan Ozturk
    The counter-revolutionary intervention was highly determinant in the trajectory and eventually in the failure of Arab uprisings across the MENA region. Thus, it is important to understand the role and nature of local actors, who functioned as a proxy for the sponsors of the counter-revolutionary agenda in executing the mission of throwing the revolutionary path off the track in individual countries that have gone through uprisings. Madkhali Salafis in Libya perfectly fits into the definition of a proxy or tool, which served the counter-revolutionary agenda by targeting and undermining especially revolutionary and Islamist actors, particularly post-2014. Certain regional countries managed to design Libyan social, military, political and religious landscape through Madkhali Salafis. Methodology The material connection between Madkhali Salafis in Libya and their foreign patrons will be established based on the accounts of several Libyan interviewees. The interviewees consisted of former pioneers of Madkhali Salafism in Libya, ordinary Libyans who experienced the certain repressive practices of Madkhali Salafis, and a variety of professionals, academics, civil society members. They witnessed the capabilities and conduct of Madkhali Salafis at different levels. Also, the attention will be drawn to the instances of constant overlap between the actions, narratives, selection of targets, and alliance formation of Madkhali Salafis and those of their external patrons to demonstrate the coordination between them. Data 1) Madkhali Salafis are named after their founder, the Saudi cleric Rabee Al-Madkhali who has been residing in Saudi Arabia. Madkhali Salafis in Libya follow orders from Saudi Arabia. 2) Libyan individuals that were threatened by Madkhali Salafis were either killed or had to flee the country post-2014, who also happened to be targeted politically by certain regional countries. 3) The role of Madkhali Salafi Brigade 555’s defection from Government of National Accord (GNA) affiliated forces to Khalifa Haftar’s side in the fall of Sirte, which became the borderline dividing Libya’s two political and military camps. This work contributes to the literature on the intersection of Salafism and geopolitics in the MENA region by providing data and analysis for Madkhali Salafis’ unique quality as a proxy. It also demonstrates that despite its façade as a purely religious organisation, Madkhali Salafis are a far-reaching social and political project with arms in religious, education, military and media sectors. Its peculiar creed makes it extremely useful for authoritarian regimes.