Panel 3b Narratives of the Uprisings and the (Re)production of Structural Flaws in International Involvement

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Chair: Dr Francesco Cavatorta, Senior Lecturer in the School of Law and Government, Dublin City University

Paper 1: The EU Response to the Egyptian Uprising: Social, Economic and Political Rights in Post-Uprising EU Narratives of Democracy
Dr Andrea Teti, Lecturer in International Relations and Co-Director of the Interdisciplinary Approaches to Violence Research Cluster, University of Aberdeen

Drawing on Critical Discourse Analysis and on Foucault’s analysis of the dipositif, this paper compares the structure of key policy documents on EU democracy promotion in the Southern Neighbourhood before and after the ‘Arab Uprisings’. This paper argues that despite calls for a paradigmatic shift in the way the EU approaches democracy both in itself and in relation to other core foreign policy priorities (security, stability, development), the conceptual structure and policy implications of these documents maintains unaltered the substantive vision of a liberal model for both development and democratization in the region. The paper considers policy steps taken by the EU towards Egypt since the uprising, comparing them to the discursive structure of its policy framework. If policy practice follows rhetoric, the EU’s revised stance is likely to continue to display earlier flaws resulting in the poor reputation on democracy promotion which opposition groups felt towards the EU before 2011.

Paper 2: A Comparative Discourse Analysis of US and Scandinavian Perspectives on the Egyptian Uprising and Impact on Democracy-Assistance Policies
Darcy Thompson, Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Middle East Studies, University of Lund (co-authored with Christopher Noble)

This paper adopts a Critical Discourse Analytical perspective to comparatively analyse democracy assistance (DA) strategies by the US (the largest DA funder in Egypt) on the one hand, and Sweden and Denmark on the other. These two sets of cases provide paradigmatic contrast in their different approaches to DA: while the US approach favours a markedly liberal policy focusing on businesses as a way of fostering not only economic growth but also those core democratic values (e.g. rule of law) crucial to the cultural capital thought to be required for democratization, Scandinavian approaches are more sympathetic to socially-conscious programmes. Both approaches rely on government-to-government relations and ‘capacity-building’ programmes, both of which have difficulties of independence from regimes unwilling to push for genuine democratization.

Paper 3: Egyptian Perspectives of Western Democracy-Promotion: The Role of the Left
Dr Gervasio Gennaro, Lecturer in Middle East Politics, Macquarie University (Sydney) & The British University in Egypt (Cairo)

European commitments to democracy-promotion in Egypt have often translated into practices which have alienated the country’s pro-democracy opposition groups. Based on documentary analysis, interviews and extensive participant observation, this paper outlines and analyses the perceptions of Left-wing groups before and after the uprising, illustrating the rationales behind their perception of what is seen as European reluctance to support independent opposition groups. Underpinning these perceptions is a different vision of what constitutes democracy for these groups, particularly informed by broadly social democratic or socialist conceptions of social justice, from the perspective of which liberal commitments – in the economic realm more than in the political – appear minimalist at best and as facades at worst. Moreover, European practices of democracy-promotion are perceived to eschew genuine opposition groups in favour of less politically problematic but merely ‘pseudo-democratic’ GONGOs.

Paper 4: The International’s Impact on Revolutionary Situations: The Cases of the 1908 Constitutional Revolution in the Ottoman Empire, the 1979 Revolution in Iran and Egypt in 2011
Dr Derya Göçer Akder, Instructor, Middle East Technical University

This paper draws attention to the lack of systematic study of the international in revolutionary situations. The study of the political, economic and ideational relations of a revolutionary country with the ‘outside world’ is left vague or reduced to geopolitical competition. However, in the region of the Middle East, this vagueness turns into two real fallacies, whereby either the international’s impact is reduced to a mere foreign dominance on the Middle Eastern countries; or ignored and the revolutionary situation is only explained by domestic developments. However, the international’s role in the moments of radical change in the region is much more complex with both constraining and enabling impact on the Middle Eastern revolutionaries. This paper will present a framework within which we can identify and explain the international’s impact on revolutionary situations in the Middle East region by assessing the revolutionary situations in 1906-8 Ottoman Empire, 1978-9 Iran and 2010-11 Egypt. The paper will present the varieties in the international’s role in Middle Eastern revolutions and suggest ways to stay away from reductionism.

Paper 5: Re-Thinking U.S. Relations with the WANA Region: An Analysis of Policies, Discourses and Practices in Light of the ‘Arab Spring’
Dr Corinna Mullin, Lecturer in Comparative and International Politics, SOAS

This paper will consider how U.S. human rights and “democracy promotion” discourses, policies and practices vis-à-vis the WANA region have been impacted as a result of the “Arab Spring”. In addition to looking at areas of continuity and change, it will also explore the tensions between U.S. claims of value-based polices and its geostrategic interests and “security” considerations in the region as they are manifested in relation to policies on “counter-terrorism”, military/intelligence cooperation and the arms trade. As these discourses and policies have formed a key component of the U.S.’ “war on terror” strategy, this paper will also consider the “war on terror” legacy in those states affected by the “Arab Spring”.

These are abridged versions of the abstracts submitted by  the presenters.
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