From the Journals: Syrian refugees; the Quran & Arab Women; Authoritarian Iconography

We’ve collected a few interesting and relevant journal articles as part of our series From the Journals. This week, we’re highlighting:

Sarah Bush, Aaron Erlich, Lauren Prather and Yael Zeira.  “The Effects of Authoritarian Iconography: An Experimental Test.” Comparative Political Studies (2016). Bush is a frequent collaborator with POMEPS, including a book launch, POMEPS Conversation, and TRE grant. Erlich, Prather, and Zeira have also received TRE grants.


Do public images of state leaders affect individuals’ political attitudes and behaviors? If so, why do they have that effect and among whom? Authoritarian iconography could increase compliance with and support for the state via three causal mechanisms: legitimacy, self-interest, and coercion. This article uses a laboratory experiment in the United Arab Emirates to evaluate the effect of public images of state leaders on individuals’ compliance with and support for an authoritarian regime. Using a pre-registered research design, it finds no meaningful evidence that authoritarian iconography increases political compliance or support for the Emirati regime. Although these null results may be due to a number of factors, the findings have important implications for the future research agenda on how and why authoritarian leaders use political culture to maintain power.

Sarah Parkinson and Orkideh Behrouzan. “Negotiating Health and Life: Syrian refugees and the politics of access in Lebanon.”  Social Science Medicine (2015). Parkinson is a member of the POMEPS Steering Committee and presented her book manuscript at the Junior Scholars Book Development Workshop.


In the context of ongoing armed conflicts in Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Iraq, it is vital to foster nuanced understandings of the relationship between health, violence, and everyday life in the Middle East and North Africa. In this article, we explore how healthcare access interacts with humanitarian bureaucracy and refugees’ daily experiences of exile. What are the stakes involved with accessing clinical services in humanitarian situations? How do local conditions structure access to healthcare? Building on the concept of “therapeutic geographies,” we argue for the integration of local socio-political context and situated knowledge into understandings of humanitarian healthcare systems. Using evidence gathered from participant observation among Syrian and Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, we demonstrate how procedures developed to facilitate care-such as refugee registration and insurance contracting-can interact with other factors to simultaneously prevent and/or disincentivize refugees’ accessing healthcare services and expose them to structural violence. Drawing on two interconnected ethnographic encounters in a Palestinian refugee camp and in a Lebanese public hospital, we demonstrate how interactions surrounding the clinical encounter reveal the social, political, and logistical complexities of healthcare access. Moreover, rather than hospital visits representing discrete encounters with the Lebanese state, we contend that they reveal important moments in an ongoing process of negotiation and navigation within and through the constraints and uncertainties that shape refugee life. As a result, we advocate for the incorporation of situated forms of knowledge into humanitarian healthcare practices and the development of an understanding of healthcare access as nested in the larger experience of everyday refugee life.

Helle Malmvig, “Eyes Wide Shut: Power and Creative Visual Counter-Conducts in the Battle for Syria, 2011-2014.Global Society (2016). Malmvig was a participant in the 2015 POMEPS workshop “International Relations Theory and the Arab Uprisings.”


This article offers a conceptualisation of a specific form of resistance in the Syrian uprising that it calls creative visual counter-conducts, and it proposes an analytical framework to study these practices, linking two emerging fields within the social sciences: those of visuality and of counter-conduct. Engaging with the literature on image politics in the Arab world and in Syria in particular, it argues that there is a tendency to assume that imagery can function as an emancipatory tool, which can be readily appropriated to resist and break free from dominant relations of power. Drawing on and further developing Foucault’s concept of counter-conduct, the article instead proposes a conceptualisation of creative visual counter-conducts as practices that produce alternative modes of being seen and imply an ethos of dangerousness, novelty and subtleness, and yet also partly rely upon, and are implicated within, those very relations of power they seek to oppose. On the basis of this analytical framework, the article embarks on a diachronic analysis of visual resistance in the battle for Syria, showing how practices of visual counter-conducts changed over time from 2011 to 2014.

Tarek Masoud, Amaney Jamal, and Elizabeth Nugent. “Using the Quran to Empower Arab Women? Theory Experimental Evidence from Egypt.Comparative Political Studies (2016). Masoud and Jamal are POMEPS Steering Committee members. Nugent is the recipient of a TRE grant and has presented papers at the POMEPS Annual Conference.


A growing body of scholarship on the political and economic subordination of women in the Muslim world has argued that widespread patriarchal attitudes toward women’s roles in public life can be ameliorated by offering progressive reinterpretations of Islamic scriptures. In this article, we explore this hypothesis with a large-scale survey experiment conducted among adult Egyptians in late 2013. In the study, a subset of respondents were exposed to an argument in favor of women’s political equality that was grounded in the Qur’ān, Islam’s holiest text. We found that this group was significantly more willing to express approval of female political leadership than those exposed to a non-religious argument in favor of women’s eligibility for political leadership. A further analysis of conditional treatment effects suggests that the religious justification for female political leadership was more likely to elicit agreement among less educated and less pious respondents, and when delivered by women and targeted at men. Our findings suggest that Islamic discourse, so often used to justify the political exclusion of women, can also be used to help empower them.



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