From the Journals: Syria, Tunisia, Lebanon, Jordan

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

The Unintended Consequences of Emergency Food Aid: Neutrality, Sovereignty and Politics in the Syrian Civil War, 2012–15 by Jose Ciro Martinez and Brent Eng.


This article dissects the role of emergency food aid during the current Syrian conflict. Drawing on Séverine Autesserre’s concept of frames and Giorgio Agamben’s theory of sovereignty, we argue that the neutrality frame, which undergirds the majority of humanitarian relief efforts in Syria, obfuscates the impact of emergency food aid, both on sovereign power relations and local political dynamics. While neutrality appears benign, it has had a tangible impact on the Syrian civil war. Through close scrutiny of various case-studies, the article traces how humanitarian efforts reinforce the bases of sovereign politics while contributing to a host of what Mariella Pandolfi (1998) terms ‘mobile sovereignties’. In the process, humanitarian organizations reaffirm sovereign power while also engaging in similar activities. We then analyse how and why ostensibly neutral emergency food aid has unintentionally assisted the Assad regime by facilitating its control over food, which it uses to buttress support and foster compliance. By bringing external resources into life-or-death situations characterized by scarcity, aid agencies have become implicated in the conflict’s inner workings. The article concludes by examining the political and military impact of emergency food assistance during the Syrian conflict, before discussing possible implications for the humanitarian enterprise more broadly.

International Affairs, Volume 92, Issue 1 (2016).

Assembling Security in a ‘Weak State:’ the Contentious Politics of Plural Governance in Lebanon since 2005 by Waleed Hazbun.

Lebanon is most often depicted as a ‘weak state’ lacking territorial sovereignty and thus fostering the proliferation of violent non-state actors that generate political instability and regional insecurity. In contrast, this essay explores the dynamics of security politics in Lebanon since 2005 through the lens of hybrid sovereignty. It shows how an assemblage of state and non-state actors has been able to navigate between rival understandings of insecurity, producing at times shared, but still contested, understandings which have sustained a system of plural governance over security that has been able to respond to a shifting geography of threats.

Third World Quarterly, January 4, 2016.

Constructing Public Space: Rousing the Facebook Crowd: Digital Enthusiasm and Emotional Contagion in the 2011 Protests in Egypt and Spain by Paolo Gerbaudo.


The activist use of Facebook pages in the 2011 movements of the Egyptian revolution and the Spanish Indignados saw phases of exponential growth in user engagement in proximity to key protest events, signaled by spikes in likes and comments. This article analyzes these episodes as moments of digital enthusiasm facilitated by emotional communication on political Facebook pages. Drawing on quantitative and qualitative analysis of Facebook data, I argue that two elements concurred to build moments of digital enthusiasm: (a) the hopeful narrative produced by activist admins managing political Facebook pages, and (b) the receptivity and cooperation of ordinary Internet users who overwhelmingly reinforced the message put forward by activist admins. This emotional dialogue between admins and users generated a process of emotional contagion that helped establish propitious psychological conditions for mass protest participation. Moments of digital enthusiasm demonstrate the power of social media and emotional communication in mass protest mobilization. However, they also highlight the risk of evanescence of collective action in a digital age.

International Journal of Communication, Volume 10(2016), 254–273.

Tool of Rule: the Tunisian Police under Ben Ali by Derek Lutterbeck.


Tunisia under its long-time ruler Zine Abidine Ben Ali was considered a police state par excellence. However, while the role of the Tunisian police as a key pillar of Ben Ali’s authoritarian regime has been commonly acknowledged, analyses of the systemic or structural features of the country’s internal security apparatus have thus far been rather limited. This article examines the main characteristics of the Tunisian police system and their relationship to Ben Ali’s autocratic rule. These include its opacity and lack of formal regulation, its instrumentalisation by the central power, the broad and politicised definition of police functions, the combination of centralisation and fragmentation of the police, as well as its permeation with cronyism and corruption, all of which were instrumental in sustaining the Ben Ali regime.

The Journal of North African Studies, Volume 20, Issue 5, 2015

Emigration and the Diffusion of Political Salafism: Religious Remittances and Support for Salafi Parties in Egypt During the Arab Spring by Ekrem Karakoç, Talha Köse and Mesut Özcan.


This study investigates the impact of emigration on the political behavior of citizens in Egypt. In particular, it argues that emigrants’ family members are more likely to vote for Salafi parties for several reasons, including the transfer of religious remittances by Egyptian emigrants to the Gulf and the influence of transnational Salafi networks. In order to test our argument, we conducted an original public opinion survey with around 1100 individuals between January 12, 2012 and January 25, 2012, just after the Egyptian parliamentary election. We find that individuals with family members who had emigrated to the Gulf voted heavily for Islamist parties, particularly the Freedom and Justice Party and the Nour Party. Further analysis shows that there is no statistical difference between individuals with and without emigrant family members in voting for the Muslim Brotherhood, while the Nour’s popularity among voters with emigrant family members is substantial and statistically significant. In particular, we find that the strongest support for the Nour came from individuals whose family members had immigrated to Saudi Arabia, whereas those whose family members had immigrated to other countries, including other Gulf countries, do not differ significantly from non-emigrant family members in their party preferences.

Party Politics, Jan 6, 2016.

Troubling the Political: Women in the Jordanian Day-Waged Labor Movement by Sara Ababneh.


The Jordanian Day-Waged Labor Movement (DWLM) played a central role in the Jordanian Popular Movement (al-Hirak al-Shaʿbi al-Urduni), commonly referred to as Hirak, from 2011 to the end of 2012. The large number of women who were active and took on leading roles in the DWLM contrasts with the absence of women’s rights organizations in the Hirak. I argue that the DWLM was able to attract so many women because it developed a discourse and flexible structure that understood women to be embedded within communities and prioritized their economic needs. By studying this discourse and structure, it is possible to learn important lessons about gender-inclusive political and institutional reform.

International Journal of Middle East Studies, Volume 48, Issue 01, February 2016, pp 87-112.

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