ARST-436 Civil Activism: North Africa
Spring for 2017-2018
The purpose of this class is to discuss and investigate different forms of civil activism, particularly civil society actors and social movements in North Africa. In fact, decades of civil resistance, mobilization, disobedience, dissent, and contestation of the post-colonial political order all over North African countries (i.e. Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia) preceded the wave of 2010-2011 popular uprisings that shook the region. Civil activism emerged as a result of restrictive public space and limited political opening under resilient authoritarianism. While, the co-optation and infiltration of civil society by North African autocratic regimes have weakened activism; however, oppression developed a culture of opposition and resistance that challenged and ultimately eroded the state legitimacy. Given the different levels of organizations within North African societies, each society experienced its own trajectory of civil activism. The widespread of arbitrary violence inflected by security apparatus on citizens combined to the retreat of the state from its social role, subsequently to the implementation of a chaotic neoliberalism and the rise of kleptocratic nepotism have strengthened civil activism in these societies. Human rights activists, union workers, lawyers bar associations, journalists, political leaders, women activists, and youth among other actors contributed to greater extent to the development of vibrant public space for social and political struggles in countries where democratic mechanisms of power contestation and regulation have been absent. Arguably, civil activism has opened the public space to more polarized and divided social actors due to the ideological rivalry and cultural identities. Notwithstanding the difficulties to overcome these divergences, civil activism through a pluralistic engagement and formal and informal networks of organizations and movements that arose before and during the popular uprisings across North African societies could lead to the growth of authentic and legitimate activism as a mode of socio-political expression, and a potential generator of democratization process.
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