openDemocracy en Call for applications: Middle East Forum Program Expansion Consultant <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">openDemocracy is looking for a Program Expansion Consultant to advise and support the expansion of the Middle East Forum project. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr">This is a freelance position for initially 10 days at $109 per day, with the possibility of more work for the wider <a href="">Arab Awakening</a> project. </p><p dir="ltr">The Program Expansion Consultant will be tasked with providing guidance and advice on how to expand the project, both in terms of seeking funding to cover more countries in the future, but also in playing an oversight role of the project to ensure its success. This would involve helping openDemocracy with outreach to new partners, offering feedback on the programme and content, and providing ideas and contacts to help make it a success in each of the countries it is implemented in.</p><p dir="ltr">The <a href="">Middle East Forum</a> is a project that encourages emerging young voices to express themselves, exchange views and be heard. The project provides participants with a series of workshops to develop writing skills, media presence, and digital security as well as a free discussion space where they have the capacity to debate constructively. Participants in the forum host speakers, acquire skills, share knowledge, and give feedback to one another.</p><p dir="ltr">The ideal candidate would be someone who has</p><p dir="ltr">* Experience in working as a journalist and/or editor in the region
</p><p dir="ltr">* Experience in cross-regional projects in the Middle East and North Africa
</p><p dir="ltr">* A wide network of contacts within civil society, media and funders in the region
</p><p dir="ltr">* Experience in running large projects and ability to advise on expansion of the MEF project
</p><p dir="ltr">* Fundraising experience
</p><p dir="ltr">If you are interested in applying please send your CV and a brief letter of motivation to by the 15th March 2017.</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Arab Awakening Opportunities at openDemocracy openDemocracy Tue, 21 Feb 2017 10:45:54 +0000 openDemocracy 108931 at Call for applications: Egypt Facilitator, Middle East Forum <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="direction-rtl" style="text-align: right;">يبحث موقع openDemocracy عن ميسّر لمنتدى الشرق الأوسط&nbsp; في مصر.</p><p>openDemocracy is looking to hire a facilitator for the Middle East Forum in Egypt.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The <span><a href="">Middle East Forum</a></span> is a project that encourages emerging young voices to express themselves, exchange views and be heard. The project provides participants with a series of workshops to develop writing skills, media presence, and digital security as well as a free discussion space where they have the capacity to debate constructively. Participants in the forum host speakers, acquire skills, share knowledge, and give feedback to one another. </p><p class="western" lang="en-GB"> We are currently looking for a facilitator to coordinate a group of 7 participants from Egypt. openDemocracy has a standard of expectation from our participants as well as from each individual facilitator. </p><p>This is a freelance role, 35 days of work spread over 11 months with a salary of $109 per day. </p><p><strong>In general, facilitators will be expected to:</strong></p> <ul><li> <p class="western" lang="en-GB">- Ensure a safe space for all the participants to express themselves freely;</p> </li><li> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> - Host debates but allow for the creative process to take its due course;</p> </li><li> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> - Cultivate a good working relationship with the participants, and serve as their mentor;</p> </li><li> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> - Maintain a good line of communication with the participants, and be available for any questions;</p> </li><li> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> - Be responsible for training the participants, providing them with the tools necessary to complete the program successfully, and the ability to organise other professional trainers where needed;</p> </li><li> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> - Outline learning objectives for the group;</p> </li><li> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> - Oversee and support the participants’ work, and assist where necessary;</p> </li><li> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> - Provide constructive feedback and suggestions to enhance the participant’s learning experience.</p> </li></ul> <p><strong>Requirements</strong></p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> We are looking for people who are passionate about journalism and its potential to change the world, and have:</p> <ul><li> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> - Expertise in the specific region of the program;</p> </li><li> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> - Experience in debate moderation;</p> </li><li> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> - Prior experience of digital publishing and social media;</p> </li><li> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> - A background in journalism and journalistic writing;</p> </li><li> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> - Fluency in both Arabic and English - able to write and edit;</p> </li><li> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> - Knowledge of online security, computer systems and office-related software;</p> </li><li> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> - Possess strong interpersonal and communication skills.</p> </li></ul> <p><strong>Specific responsibilities will include, but are not limited to:</strong></p> <ul><li> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> - Finding, screening and selecting seven candidates for the program;</p> </li><li> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> - Meeting the commitment of 15 sessions;</p> </li><li> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> - Actively developing an online space for debate;</p> </li><li> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> - Developing a working relationship with the participants, such that you can adequately serve as their mentor;</p> </li><li> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> - Actively moderating debate;</p> </li><li> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> - Managing communication with participants;</p> </li><li> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> - Ensuring that notes for each session are being taken. Share notes with all participants;</p> </li><li> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> - Editing articles written by the participants in both Arabic and English;</p> </li><li> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> - Liaising with the project coordinator and editor;</p> </li><li> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> - Writing progress reports;</p> </li></ul> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> <strong>Who can apply?</strong></p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> You can apply for the position if you fall under any of the following:</p> <ul><li> <p class="western" lang="en-GB">- Previous experience as a journalist or editor</p> </li><li> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> - Currently completing or recently completed post-graduate studies in related field</p> </li><li> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> - Possess expertise in the specific region of the program</p> </li></ul> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> <strong>How to apply?</strong></p> <ul><li> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> Send in a sample piece of <strong>1000 words</strong> in Arabic or English of why you believe you are suitable for this role and your resume </p></li></ul> <p>Please send your application documents to <span><a href=""></a></span> by the <strong>1st of March.</strong> </p><h2 class="direction-rtl"><strong>دعوة إلى تقديم الطلبات لمنصب ميسّر لمنتدى الشرق الأوسط في مصر</strong></h2> <p class="direction-rtl">يبحث موقع <strong>openDemocracy</strong> عن ميسّر لمنتدى الشرق الأوسط&nbsp; في مصر.</p> <p class="direction-rtl">منتدى الشرق الأوسط هو مشروع يشجّع الأجيال الصاعدة الشابّة على التعبير عن نفسها وتبادل الآراء وإيصال صوتها. يقدّم المشروع للمشاركين سلسلة من ورش العمل لتطوير مهاراتهم في الكتابة والحضور الإعلامي والأمن الرقمي كما يوفّر المشروع فضاء للمناقشات ويمنح المشاركين فرصة التحاور بطريقة بنّاءة. يستضيف المشاركون في المنتدى متحدثين ويكتسبون مهارات ويتشاركون المعلومات ويعبّرون عن رأيهم بعمل زملائهم.</p> <p class="direction-rtl">نسعى إلى توظيف ميسّر لتنسيق عمل مجموعة من 7 مشاركين من مصر. </p> <p class="direction-rtl">ثمة معايير يتوقع موقع <strong>openDemocracy</strong> من المشاركين ومن كلّ ميسّر احترامها.</p> <p class="direction-rtl">هذا منصب حرّ (<strong>freelance</strong>) يتضمّن 35 يوماً من العمل ممتدّ على فترة 11 شهراً. </p> <h2 class="direction-rtl"><strong>بشكل عام، تضمّ مهام الميسّر التالي:</strong><strong>&nbsp;</strong></h2> <p class="direction-rtl">-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; تأمين منبر آمن لجميع المشاركين للتعبير عن آرائهم بِحرية؛ <strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p class="direction-rtl">-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; استضافة مناظرات والسماح للعملية الخلّاقة أن تأخذ مجراها المناسب؛<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p class="direction-rtl">-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; بناء علاقة عمل جيدة مع المشاركين وتأدية دور المرشد؛<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p class="direction-rtl">-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; الحرص على تأمين التواصل السليم مع المشاركين والتوفر للإجابة عن جميع أسئلتهم؛<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p class="direction-rtl">-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; تحمّل مسؤولية تدريب المشاركين ومدّهم بالأدوات اللازمة لإتمام البرنامج بنجاح وبالقدرة على تأمين مدرّبين محترفين آخرين، إذا دعت الحاجة؛<strong></strong></p> <p class="direction-rtl">-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; وضع أهداف التعلّم للمجموعة؛<strong></strong></p> <p class="direction-rtl">-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; الإشراف على عمل المشاركين ودعمهم ومساعدتهم لدى الحاجة؛<strong></strong></p> <p class="direction-rtl">-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; تقديم تعليقات واقتراحات بنّاءة لتحسين التجربة التعلّمية للمشاركين.<strong></strong></p> <p class="direction-rtl"><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <h2 class="direction-rtl"><strong>متطلّبات الوظيفة:</strong></h2> <p class="direction-rtl">نبحث عن أشخاص شغوفين في مجال الصحافة ويؤمنون بقدرتها على تغيير العالم. يجب أن يتحلّوا بالمهارات التالية:</p> <p class="direction-rtl">-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;إطّلاع واسع على شؤون المنطقة المحدّدة للبرنامج؛<strong></strong></p> <p class="direction-rtl">-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; خبرة في إدارة المناقشات؛ <strong></strong></p> <p class="direction-rtl">-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; خبرة سابقة في النشر الرقمي والتواصل الاجتماعي؛<strong></strong></p> <p class="direction-rtl">-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; تخصّص في الصحافة والكتابة الصحافية؛<strong></strong></p> <p class="direction-rtl">-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; طلاقة في اللغتين العربية والإنكليزية والقدرة على الكتابة والتنقيح في اللغتين؛ <strong></strong></p> <p class="direction-rtl">-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; معرفة في أمن الإنترنت وأنظمة الكمبيوتر والبرمجيات المكتبية؛</p> <p class="direction-rtl">-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; امتلاك مهارات متقدمة في التواصل والتعامل مع الآخرين.<strong></strong></p> <p class="direction-rtl"><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <h2 class="direction-rtl"><strong>تضمّ مسؤوليات الميسّر التالي، على سبيل المثال لا الحصر:</strong></h2> <p class="direction-rtl">-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; إيجاد 7 مرشحين للبرنامج وفحص مهاراتهم والاختيار من بينهم؛<strong></strong></p> <p class="direction-rtl">-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; القدرة على الالتزام بحضور 15 جلسة؛<strong></strong></p> <p class="direction-rtl">-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; تطوير فعلي لفضاء إلكتروني للمناظرات؛<strong></strong></p> <p class="direction-rtl">-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; تطوير علاقات عمل مع المشاركين للنجاح في دور المرشد؛<strong></strong></p> <p class="direction-rtl">-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; إدارة المناظرات بشكل نشط؛<strong></strong></p> <p class="direction-rtl">-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; القدرة على التواصل مع المشاركين؛<strong></strong></p> <p class="direction-rtl">-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; الحرص على تدوين الملاحظات في كلّ جلسة وتشاركها مع جميع المشاركين؛<strong></strong></p> <p class="direction-rtl">-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; تنقيح المقالات التي يكتبها المشاركون باللغتين العربية والإنكليزية؛<strong></strong></p> <p class="direction-rtl">-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; التنسيق مع مدير المشروع والمحرّر؛<strong></strong></p> <p class="direction-rtl">-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; صياغة تقارير عن سير العمل وتقدّمه.<strong></strong></p> <p class="direction-rtl"><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <h2 class="direction-rtl"><strong>مَن </strong><strong>المرشّحون لهذه الوظيفة؟</strong></h2> <p class="direction-rtl">يمكنك التقدّم بطلب للحصول على الوظيفة إذا:</p> <p class="direction-rtl">-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; لديك خبرة سابقة كمحرّر أو صحافي؛<strong></strong></p> <p class="direction-rtl">-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; أتممت دراسات عليا في مجال مرتبط أو إذا كنت في طور إتمام هذه الدراسات؛<strong></strong></p> <p class="direction-rtl">-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; لديك إطّلاع واسع على المنطقة المحددة للبرنامج.<strong></strong></p> <h2 class="direction-rtl"><strong>كيف يمكن التقدّم للوظيفة؟</strong></h2> <p class="direction-rtl">أرسِل نصّاً من 1000 كلمة باللغة الإنكليزية أو العربية تفسّر فيه الأسباب التي تجعلك مناسباً لهذا المنصب، بالإضافة إلى سيرتك الذاتية.<strong></strong> </p><p class="direction-rtl">الرجاء إرسال جميع الطلبات والمستندات المرتبطة بها إلى موقع <a href=""><strong></strong></a> والموعد النهائي للتقديم هو 1 مارس. </p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Middle East Forum Arab Awakening Opportunities at openDemocracy Mid-East Forum openDemocracy Thu, 16 Feb 2017 17:41:10 +0000 openDemocracy 108840 at Operations & Editorial Assistant <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Join openDemocracy! We are looking for an experienced administrator to ensure the smooth running of our office and support our editorial team. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr">The role of the Operations &amp; Editorial Assistant is to ensure the smooth running of the openDemocracy office by supporting the Head of Operations &amp; Finance in the areas of office management and administration, project support, HR and training and also to provide editorial support to the Main Site Editorial team.</p><p dir="ltr">This is a role for someone who is passionate about openDemocracy’s mission: to challenge power and inspire change through tenacious reporting, thoughtful analysis and democratic debate. You will have proven experience in operations / administrative / project support roles. Experience of writing and editing for digital media is also desirable and, although writing and editing articles won’t be part of the day-to-day job, support and development in this area will also be available.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="229" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr"><em>Shutterstock/erce. All rights reserved.</em></p><p dir="ltr">The key responsibilities of the role are:</p><ul><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">-<span> </span><strong>Office management &amp; administration</strong> – ensuring the smooth running of the openDemocracy office by establishing and maintaining effective systems and processes.</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">-<span> </span><strong>HR &amp; Training</strong> – assisting the Head of Operations &amp; Finance to support oD’s brilliant staff by organising staff training, reviewing and updating training guides and managing recruitment and induction processes.</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">-<span> </span><strong>Project support</strong> – supporting the development of project management processes and administration of main site projects, taking the lead on communicating with team members and monitoring progress.</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">-<span> </span><strong>Editorial support </strong>– supervising our team of editorial volunteers, management of our unsolicited editorial submissions system, day-to-day support on social media and assisting the main site and wider editorial team with general publishing, organisational and technical support.</p></li></ul><p dir="ltr">For more details, <a href=" &amp; Editorial Assistant JD Final.pdf">click here</a>&nbsp;to see job description and person specification.</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>How to apply</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Candidates must be able to demonstrate the skills, knowledge and experience detailed in the person specification section of the&nbsp;<a href=" &amp; Editorial Assistant JD Final.pdf">job description</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">To apply please <a href="">click here</a>&nbsp;to submit your CV and a letter outlining how you fit the criteria for the role as detailed in the <a href=" &amp; Editorial Assistant JD Final.pdf">job description</a>. Please also include details of two referees (we will request permission before contacting any referees) and whether you are applying for the role on full-time, part-time or flexible basis.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Application deadline:</strong> Noon on Monday 27th February 2017 with interviews the week commencing 6th March 2017.</p><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy welcomes diversity. In particular, we encourage people from groups who tend to be underrepresented in the media sector to apply.</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> openDemocracy Fri, 10 Feb 2017 17:17:13 +0000 openDemocracy 108721 at The IMF on inequality: beyond organised hypocrisy? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>So far, the nature of Christine Lagarde’s speeches and the discussions I had with Fund staff this week suggest that there is more work to be done.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde and Klaus Regling, Managing Director of the European Stability Mechanism meet to evaluate Greece's request for a new bailout package,July 2015. Wiktor Dabkowski DPA/Press Association. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>Recent commentary on research I conducted with <a href="">Paul White</a>, has caused a stir. <a href="">Our paper</a> in the <a href=""><em>Journal of Australian Political Economy</em></a> was the subject of a review in <a href=""><em>The Conversation</em></a> and the <a href=""><em>Huffington Post</em></a>. The review, by the eminent academics political economist <a href="">Frank Stilwell</a> and historian <a href="">Christopher Sheil</a>, suggested that the IMF ‘was showing some hypocrisy on inequality’ and summarised our findings and critique, as well as some wider debates on inequality.</p> <p>The IMF <a href="">responded strongly to this</a>, arguing that they <a href="">‘are walking-the-talk’</a> on inequality and, further, that a series of operational programmes with member states are <a href="">‘bridging research and reality’</a>.&nbsp; The IMF response drew attention to the high-level policy commitments and research that we draw on in our paper and a number of initially ‘pilot’ programmes which focus on different aspects of inequality with specific countries.&nbsp; </p> <p>Their response suggests that there are now 15 more of these on inequality, 9 on gender and 15 on climate change. The Fund also kindly invited me in to speak to them this week about our paper and their new operational work.</p> <p>It goes without saying that Paul and I very much welcome this discussion of our work and are grateful to both Stilwell and Sheil, and the IMF for taking the time to engage with us.&nbsp; In the context of this debate Paul and I thought it worth restating the findings and analysis in our paper.&nbsp; This is useful because the debate highlights the importance of our findings, the limitations we identify, and plans for future research to address those limitations.&nbsp; The IMF’s response may well open a fruitful avenue for this research – and I dwell on some of this at the end of this piece.</p> <h2><strong>Inequality pilots</strong></h2> <p>Before going on to our initial research, we ought to comment on the IMF’s response to Stilwell and Sheil.&nbsp; Our research looked at mainstream IMF work (see below) with a range of borrower and non-borrower member states.&nbsp; Unhappily, our sample only overlaps with the pilots the IMF mention in relation to China and the US. The US stood out in our sample as being the country we looked at with the most coverage of inequality in its IMF surveillance document. In relation to China we were quite critical; noting a remarkable absence of discussion of inequality. That said, the IMF’s defence may well be in line with one of the potential interpretations of our empirical findings; that the IMF’s commitment is genuine at the top of the organisation, but that this has only partially pulled through to operational practice.&nbsp; That ‘pilot’ programmes are exploring what work the IMF can do with member states on inequality is evidence in itself that this work is not yet mainstream.</p> <h2><strong>IMF seal of approval</strong></h2> <p>The bulk of our paper is focused on exploring one simple empirical question. We noted the IMF’s research agenda and policy commitments on inequality as set out in a series of significant research and policy papers, speeches of Christine Lagarde (the IMF’s Managing Director) and interviews that I conducted in 2014 with senior officials at the IMF. We set out to explore whether these commitments were present in IMF operational policy with member states. </p> <p>This is important for several reasons. First, the IMF has in the past been heavily criticised for promoting policies which might increase inequality such as cutbacks in state expenditure, financial and trade liberalisation, privatisation and de-regulation.&nbsp; </p> <p>Second, the IMF is unusual among international organisations, in that it has leverage to ensure that some of its members – those who borrow money from it – implement the policies it recommends.&nbsp; Even countries that do not borrow, may have an interest in implementing IMF recommendations because IMF reports might act as a signal to financial markets about the quality of a government’s economic management. As such, the IMF’s seal of approval might affect their ability to borrow from other sources.</p> <h2><strong>Operational practice </strong></h2> <p>In order to assess the extent to which high level commitments to reduce inequality were present in operational practice, we shaped our analysis around four stages:</p> <ol><li>We reviewed the high-level policy and research documents to identify the list of policies that the IMF itself suggests would reduce inequality. We then used this list as the basis to examine whether IMF work with member states prioritised these policies;</li><li>We then looked at recent changes to operational guidance for IMF staff working with member states, to see whether there was evidence of changes to focus more on reducing inequality, including the policies identified above;</li><li>We then looked at a sample of programme documents (for borrowers) and Article IV surveillance reports (for non-borrowing member states) produced since the changed operational guidelines went live; and</li><li>We compared these documents with those produced prior to the changes to see if there was a change in practice.</li></ol> <p>We found that the changed operational guidelines were complex but that it was difficult to discern the same level of focus on inequality in these, as was present in the high-level policy and research documents. We found “considerable discussion of inequality” but that “some of it appears much less certain about the benefits of reducing inequality than the high-level documents” (p206).</p> <h2><strong>Traditional concerns</strong></h2> <p>In terms of the programme and surveillance documents we found very little discussion of inequality.&nbsp; It was more present in non-borrower documents, especially the United States, (a notably unequal society among similar advanced OECD countries), but the concern might reflect the interests of country authorities rather than the IMF.&nbsp; </p> <p>Given that the IMF response identifies the US as one of their inequality pilots, this might also be an explanation. In both borrower and non-borrower countries we found that the policies identified by the IMF as reducing inequality were less present than traditional Fund concerns with growth, fiscal consolidation and exchange rate stability. However, we did find some small degree of change over time to give distributional issues more of a priority. </p> <h2><strong>Risk averse</strong></h2> <p>In seeking to explain these findings, we suggested that there were several possible explanations.&nbsp; One of these was <a href="">Catherine Weaver’s ‘organised hypocrisy’</a> thesis in which high level rhetoric is used as a legitimation strategy to justify otherwise unpopular policies, which do not fit with the rhetoric.&nbsp; This is a noted line of explanation regarding international organisations, including the IMF (for e.g. <a href="">see here</a>), in the academic literature. We acknowledged this argument but suggested that we were “tempted to go further” (p213) to suggest that the high-level commitment to reduce inequality was genuine, but had not fully percolated through to operational practice.</p> <p>As an aside, <a href="">in other papers</a> I have hypothesised that such a commitment might reflect a genuine concern to pursue the IMF’s long-running mandate to promote greater inclusion in the global economy, while protecting this process from systemic risks. Such risks – which might include inequality and climate change – might result in social backlash (as for instance in Brexit or the election of Donald Trump) which undermine the process of expanding the world market (a <a href="">‘New Politics of Inequality’</a>). However, we felt further evidence was needed to empirically substantiate this possible explanation. Reflecting on the meeting with IMF staff today, I would conclude that there is some evidence to support this claim.</p> <h2><strong>Institutional inertia</strong></h2> <p>Our attention in the paper then turned to explaining the gap between rhetoric and operational practice outside of conscious hypocrisy. One possible explanation might just be institutional and individual inertia. We cited <a href="">other research</a> that suggests that the training of the professional economists who staff the IMF might just be resistant to the high-level rhetoric. In sum; change is difficult to implement and takes time. Recent <a href="">speeches by Christine Lagarde</a> and our own interview data suggested that this may be the case. At the time of writing the <em>Journal of Australian Political Economy</em> piece, we had insufficient data on which to base any firm conclusion. Results of the discussion with senior IMF staff this week in research, policy and public relations offer some support for our thinking here. If this is the case though, both our research and Stilwell and Sheil’s commentary on it, are useful to those in the IMF who are driving the reform agenda.</p> <p>We concluded by noting the limitations in our data and suggesting how future research which might address these. We envisage continuing and broadening our scrutiny of programme and surveillance documents to look for evidence of greater change as more time elapses. Second, we thought it useful to enquire with IMF staff who were involved in discussions about the changes to operational practice, and about the debates and interests which shaped the outcome of the process. Finally, we thought it useful to undertake qualitative research with those involved in discussions between the IMF and country authorities about what considerations shaped the production of programme and surveillance documents, including the policy recommendations contained within them.&nbsp; </p> <h2><strong>Mainstreaming inequality reduction</strong></h2> <p>The meeting this week with Fund staff suggests a slight revision to this plan. We’ll expand the sample, but include within it some of the pilot programmes. We’ll also review the Fund’s own work to assess the extent to which inequality and labour market issues are included in its operational work with member states. Finally, our engagement so far has been on the basis of holding the IMF to account for mainstreaming its rhetorical commitments in operational practice. If it turns out that the Fund is justified in mounting such a strong defence of its work in this area, then our attention should shift to assessing first, the extent to which the policies it recommends to reduce inequality are effective in doing so and second, how the work undertaken so far can be more effectively mainstreamed throughout its operational practice. </p> <p>So far, our research – and the nature of Christine Lagarde’s speeches and the discussions I had with Fund staff this week – suggest that there is more work to be done to mainstream its headline concern to reduce inequality. But its openness to engagement on the issue gives scope for optimism about the prospects for this. Perhaps this research might help the IMF show just how serious it is about ‘walking-the-talk’.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href=""><img style="padding-top: 10px;" src="//" /></a>openDemocracy was at the World Forum for Democracy, exploring the relationship between inequality, education and democracy. </p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/yanis-varoufakis/imf-confesses-it-immolated-greece-on-behalf-of-eurogroup">The IMF confesses it immolated Greece on behalf of the Eurogroup</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/yanis-varoufakis-michel-feher/europe-and-spectre-of-democracy">Europe and the spectre of democracy: Michel Feher interviews Yanis Varoufakis</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ash-amin/elite-hauteur-greece-niger-and-imf">Elite hauteur: Greece, Niger and the IMF</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> China </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? EU United States China World Forum for Democracy 2016 Alex Nunn Sat, 25 Feb 2017 14:22:48 +0000 Alex Nunn 109078 at The mystery of ‘populism’ finally unveiled <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The philosopher of post-Fascism enters the populism fray with his own candidate for post-truth – Left betrayal.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Hungarian Prime Minister Orban looking at the Bavarian and the Hungarian flag in front of the parliament building in Budapest, Hungary, March 2016. Peter Kneffel DPA/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>There is nothing new in consecrated terms being used in an entirely novel sense without announcing the change, and thereby misleading readers. It happens every day. It is no surprise if, being unable to explain a new phenomenon, people give it a resounding name instead of a theory or at least a description. This is what is happening with ‘populism’ or ‘right populism’ – or even ‘left populism’ – words used to depict states of affairs old as the hills at the same time as surprisingly new ones. ‘Populism’ has become a synonym of ‘I don’t understand it, but I was asked to talk about it’. </p> <h2><strong>Take the example of Hungary</strong></h2> <p>Take the example of Hungary. The prime minister, Viktor Orbán is called <em>the</em> ‘right populist’ <em>par excellence</em>. What does he do?</p> <p>After some hesitant but repellent experimentation with a totalitarian-style mobilization he later wisely abandoned, he and his régime invent a technique whereby corruption, in the legal sense, is avoided, but state assets are used nevertheless to enrich the friends and retainers of the ruling family. The leadership is not bribed by outsiders, nor is theft committed: companies, lands, buildings, profitable entreprises, rents and, especially, money from European funds are simply <em>donated</em> to courtiers and flunkeys and to their bogus firms. State functions are outsourced to the leader’s allies (but still controlled by him, informally), private companies nationalized and then re-privatized to such allies. Tenders offered for catering to national and regional needs are invariably won by the same people and the same pro-Orbán and sub-Orbán companies. <span class="mag-quote-center">State banks are offering credits to these companies to buy up previously independent media.</span></p> <p>State banks are offering credits to these companies to buy up previously independent media. All public institutions are treated as the personal property of the leader. From elementary school headmasters to village post office chiefs to directorships at funny dolls collections to university chairs to police captaincies every public official or anybody who is asked to do something for the community must belong to the governing Right in one capacity or another. </p> <p>The prime minister’s office is moved into the former royal palace and the National Gallery and the National Library are thrown out from the building to make place for him and his personal state administration which is more and more distinct from, and placed over, government proper. (And local, more exactly, regional, government has all but disappeared. There is nothing between central government and the local boss or headman in the village.) State institutions such as the National Heritage Office are suppressed and taken over by shadowy private outfits with some financial and professional interest in the matter, invariably connected to the supra-government.</p> <p>As in the times of patrimonial kingdoms, the property of the Crown is not divided by a clear line from the personal property of the head of state. It is used in a discretionary, arbitrary and peremptory manner by the supreme power in the land. The beneficiaries of this system are organized into a tightly knit order or ‘corporation’ in the old sense, who are supplanting the formal state and are shaping the latter’s laws and constitutional norms. </p> <p>This is an ingenious old-new form of a flexible and non-murderous dictatorship, but why is it ‘populist’?</p> <h2><strong>Ethnicist demagoguery </strong></h2> <p>Ethnicist demagoguery is not particularly populist, as it is and was practiced by various élites in the past who were vehemently and, sometimes, violently opposed to the popular classes, such as authoritarian military dictatorships. The routine of making occasional concessions to the masses in the form of wage rises, alms, tax reforms are also universal procedures, and nobody would call Prince Otto von Bismarck and Emperors Wilhelm I and II ‘populist’. Is there any régime that has not blamed The Foreigner for the ills that befell the country it has dominated? <span class="mag-quote-center">This is the way of the Pyramids. Was the Pharaoh a ‘populist’?</span></p> <p>And look at Donald Trump, the arch-populist menace. Of his being a menace there is no doubt. But ‘populist’? </p> <p>He proposes to alleviate unemployment by building roads and bridges. This is the way of the Pyramids. Was the Pharaoh a ‘populist’? Levying punitive taxes on foreign traders is an ancient custom. Were the Doges of Venice or the <em>stadhouders</em> of the Netherlands, the Dukes of Burgundy, ‘populists’? </p> <p>In 1935, Karl Mannheim, in his <em>Man and Society in an Age of Reconstruction</em>, established that there is a cyclical rhythm to economic policies from free-trade eras to periods of protectionism. (A similar logic was discovered by Karl Polanyi in his theory of the ‘double movement’ in <em>The Great Transformation</em>, 1944.) Sharpened competition is &nbsp;driving prices down which will force employers to reduce real wages, prolong working hours and enforce a stricter work discipline together with repressive labour legislation – but especially to save money by developing technology and downsizing the workforce. </p> <p>Mass unemployment will be detrimental to competitive demand, and so on. Sooner or later, the leaders of the capitalist states will have to take measures if they wish to forestall crisis, and the method is mainly to limit competition somewhat.</p> <p>Protectionism limits competition in two respects: first, it moderates the competition between capitalists by excluding some competitors, mostly ‘foreign’ ones and forcing the state, that is, the taxpayer to shoulder the burden of some redistributive tasks the market can no longer look after. And, second, by reducing the competition <em>between workers</em>. Competition between workers is particularly dangerous for the stability of a bourgeois state. When jobs are scarce, a potent workers’ movement has, in the past, asked for the state to nationalize, to restructure, to regulate and, typically, to pay unemployment benefit of one sort or another and to enlarge the state welfare systems and to invest in new projects (e. g., railways, roads, social housing) in need of new employees, to delay (by education) the age at which people enter the workforce, to lower the retirement age together with other expensive expedients. Another such expedient regularly advocated by the ruling classes was war or colonial conquest or both which created new demand and depleted the surplus populations. Both were deemed destabilizing and barbarous. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Otto von Bismarck and his dogs, 1891. Wikicommons/ Immanuel Giel. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>A combination of some of these elements was to create some welfare systems but exclude part of their beneficiaries on various grounds or, at least, offer up some beneficiaries as objects of hatred, counterbalancing the generous impulse inherent in redistributive and egalitarian state regulation. Welfare for ‘hard-working’ (read: white) men only, exclusion of ‘spongers’ and ‘welfare queens’ (read: the coloured or the foreign or the female, such as the dread ‘single mothers’ in the orchestrated scare of the 1980s and 1990s) has sometimes successfully replaced the politics of class struggle with ethnic strife and cross-class, race and gender (white male) alliances and coalitions. <span class="mag-quote-center">What is relatively new, is the combination of anti-welfarism with business protectionism.</span></p> <p>A contemporary variation on these themes has been deployed by the Trump campaign where the forgotten, the left-behind white working class plays a symbolic rôle in the usual anti-welfarist conservative slandering of the unemployed with the traditional bogeyman of the black criminal. What is relatively new, is the combination of anti-welfarism with business protectionism with public works promised to increase employment. Protectionism usually went hand in hand with welfarism (even the fascist version with its ethnic and nativist limitations; but this is not true of all fascisms: Mussolini was a free trader and budget balancer), but now it doesn’t. Here <em>the immigrant</em> will synthesize the features of this new reactionary politics.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Pyramid of Khafre and the Great Sphinx of Giza on the Giza Plateau, Cairo, Egypt.Wikicommons/ Hajor. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p> <h2><strong>The immigrants</strong></h2> <p>‘Commercial wars’ against, say, China and a frank enmity towards the European Union – against the foreigner – is now concomitant with a struggle against a competing workers’ group, the immigrants. By saving the native working populations from cheap foreign competition and saving domestic capital from the hardships of the global market (this latter is barely possible, if at all) it is hoped to create a cross-class coalition between the haves and the have-nots on an ethnic and cultural basis, a coalition which might be sufficient to win elections but which won’t long survive the hard-working ‘little man’ having noticed that he has been stiffed. Except, of course, if the Trump régime and similar governments descend into straightforward fascism... But what we see for the moment is more chaos than goose-stepping; although the ill-mannered ill-will is there, together with the crazies who would congregate in the neigbourhood of such a leadership in any situation of this kind. <span class="mag-quote-center">The ill-mannered ill-will is there, together with the crazies who would congregate in the neigbourhood of such a leadership in any situation of this kind. </span></p> <h2><strong>Hardly populist</strong></h2> <p>Again, nothing really new. Protectionism, isolationism, nativism have been colours and nuances of American politics for a long time. But it has never been the case that the disadvantaged have not been offered anything of substance – after all, that is what should be at the centre of any populist politics. In ‘populist’ Hungary there is no unemployment benefit, no dole, at all. </p> <p>Populism without a dollop of egalitarianism is nonsense. Populism is, or was, naturally, anti-élitism. With its nineteenth-century origins, the élites it particularly disliked were royal courts, the landed aristocracy and its cosmopolitan ramifications, the Papacy and the higher clergy, the higher officer corps (and the professional army and navy in general), members of the exclusive gentlemen’s clubs, the higher echelons of the colonial service, merchant banks and bankers. To this, pre-fascist and fascist propaganda has added hidden, ‘occult’ élites like freemasons, The Elders of Zion, the press lords and, again, the Vatican, as the ‘real’ masters of the universe. (Even the silly myths about the Illuminati are about two hundred years old and they were aleady idiotic then.)</p> <p>But it would be quite unprecedented if the distinguishing mark of the élites were to be their egalitarianism, that is, their ideological and political closeness to the disadvantaged. The fake anti-élitism of today (and this may be the origin of this mind-boggling verbiage about ‘populism’ that clearly doesn’t exist) is directed at the egalitarians, especially at that odd species we might call ‘liberal egalitarians’ some of whom are just modest social democrats. <span class="mag-quote-center">The fake anti-élitism of today is directed at the egalitarians.</span></p> <p>This was made possible by the propensity of the ‘liberal egalitarians’ with their human rights rhetoric to defend and to protect with the greatest force minorities who are at the receiving end of capitalist inequality and of state repression, race and gender minorities particularly and, internationally, nations and other populations fallen victim to horrible tyrannies. Even among those defeated in the class struggle, they would emphasize the unemployed and people who are not covered, let alone appreciated, by the various systems of social assistance. In other words, ‘egalitarian liberals’ tried to represent those who suffer most from the lack or misapplication of distributive justice in bourgeois society without, of course, wanting to subvert said society – they are not, after all, communists. They are not representing the ‘deserving poor’ only, but also the troublesome, obnoxious, exhausting poor, the mad, the recalcitrant, the angry, and even those who don’t speak English. </p> <p>They are obviously also in favour of trade unions and fair wages – but this is not what seems dangerous to neo-conservatives of both the free-trading-globalist and the protectionist-isolationist ilk. What is believed to be truly intolerable is the spread of <em>egalitarian culture:</em> manners, habits of speech, convictions, beliefs, solidarities, sympathies and the like. <span class="mag-quote-center">What is believed to be truly intolerable is the spread of <em>egalitarian culture.</em></span></p> <h2><strong>Political correctness </strong></h2> <p>This is why so-called political correctness is so hated, even in east European and South Asian countries where it was never in use. The demise of ‘political correctness’ is experienced as liberation by the Right, our world being freed from hypocrisy and from imposed artificiality – after all, contempt for women, for gays, for persons of colour, for foreigners, for people in poor health etc. is <em>natural</em> – they say – so an egalitarian reform of grammar and usage is <em>euphemistic:</em> it gives utopian names to realities ‘we’ (the real people) know and admire as being impressive, that is, scary and horrible. One shouldn’t speak of ‘partners’ while ‘we’ know that the man is boss and the wife obeys. Withdrawal of recognition from inequality is presented – again! – as something both impious and unreal. Also, using ‘euphemisms’ instead of changing social realities is a sign of weakness, therefore despicable like every weakness. Studying the social, cultural and political constructions of ‘gender’ means – or the Right is pretending that it means for it – the withdrawal of recognition from the distinction of the sexes. Another sign of remoteness from what modern reactionaries mean by ‘nature’, that is, predetermined power relationships. Rank and force are already features of the animal kingdom and, for example, female submission is a fact of life among vertebrates. </p> <p>Apart from these sort of ‘social Darwinist’ or eugenic ideologies of inequality between races and genders (sorry, ‘sexes’) traditionalism plays a part, too. Giulio Evola – an inspiration not only for Steve Bannon, US President Trump’s strategic adviser, but also for the Hungarian Jobbik party, very much in love with the differential metaphysical calling of different castes or ‘orders’ <em>(Stände)</em> – is the saint of ‘traditionalism’. Equality means only the mixing of castes where everybody in modernity becomes a <em>Chandala</em>, that is, a person without <em>Varna</em>, without caste, in other words: an untouchable, an unlovely synonym for anybody on the Left.</p> <p>Another Trump adviser, one Sebastian Gorka, a fellow Hungarian of mine, proudly sports the knightly title <em>‘vitéz’</em>, a new ‘nobility’ created and endowed by the erstwhile Regent, Imperial and Royal Rear Admiral von Horthy (ruled 1919-1944) and now just a club of far-right crazies bestowing aristocratic titles on one another, who are staunch believers in hierarchy, blue blood and Aryan brotherhood. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Dr. Sebastian Gorka briefing at SOCOM Wargame Center,2015.Wikicommons/Sk-gorka.Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Protectionism, autarky, conspiracy theories, phoney aristocratism, racial contempt, white supremacism, misogyny, hatred of science, invention of imaginary enemies – all this has absolutely nothing to do with populism by any stretch of the imagination. </p><p>Speaking of imaginary enemies: the term ‘cultural Marxists’ in America – which closely parallels Goebbels’s <em>‘Kulturbolschewismus’</em> – mirrors, again, ideas to be found among representatives of the east European extreme Right where hatred of the Frankfurt School – and its rather tenuous links, through the late work of Jürgen Habermas, with the so-called European ‘idea’, another old reactionary, but non-ethnicist concoction – unlike the perusal of their books, is endemic, too. </p> <p>It is almost moving to hear <em>Breitbart</em> alumni accusing Adorno – would you believe it? – &nbsp;of all people, of poisoning western youth with rock music. Precisely Adorno, for whom even Igor Stravinsky’s music was <em>kitsch</em> and who despised jazz which appears élitist and rarefied today and whom I do not suspect of having ever heard rock music. Still, Adorno being on the Left, is accused of being a lover of lower-class music (he was the exact opposite of this, of course) and the ‘populist’ Right considers popular music the opium of the rabble.</p> <p>It would be quite interesting to discover why people do use this term, ‘populism’ for the breakthrough of this rather old-fashioned, very traditional Right (so thirties…) – and even more interesting to know why some are tarring a few versions of the Left with the same brush. According to that nice and invariably true French saying, whoever says that there is no real difference between Left and Right, is of the Right. (<em>‘Ni droite, ni gauche’ </em>was a fascist slogan and the Nazis announced in the Horst-Wessel-Lied that <em>‘Kam’raden, die Rotfront und Reaktion erschossen’</em>, that they’ve shot the communist Red Front <em>and</em> the conservatives. Again: what is new?) <span class="mag-quote-center">Whoever says that there is no real difference between Left and Right, is of the Right.</span></p> <h2><strong>For what is happening?</strong></h2> <p>The fact that people on the Left are making cowardly compromises is no news either. Yes, you hear people like Jeremy Corbyn or Sahra Wagenknecht (the top candidate of Die Linke in the coming elections, former secretary of the <em>Kommunistische Plattform </em>still monitored officially by the special services) or the Socialist chancellor of Austria, Christian Kern or quondam French leftist leaders now making anti-immigrant speeches. But this is betrayal, not ‘populism’. </p> <p>True populists may have uttered idiocies, but certainly on behalf of the common people, of the majority, of the <em>profanum vulgus</em>, of the great unwashed and of what you will. Nothing could be more bourgeois than nationalism, but the nationalist cry for ‘unity’ appealed to the imagination of those democrats who wanted to fund an egalitarian community based on a shared cultural heritage (by no means a silly idea). Populism very often was nothing more than democratic nationalism – something that does not exist nowadays. (See my ‘Ethnicism After Nationalism: The Roots of the European Right’, <em>Socialist Register 2016</em>.) Nationalism was a sort of Messianic self-affirmation, for example that of imaginary Poland, ‘the Christ of nations’ (Adam Mickiewicz, 1832) struggling for liberation against the three great empires of the nineteenth century: Russia, Germany and Austria. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//ług_dagerotypu_paryskiego_z_1842_roku.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//ług_dagerotypu_paryskiego_z_1842_roku.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Adam Mickiewicz around 1890. Wikicommons/Unknown. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Not for the deportation of the Jews or for the eviction of refugees – it was against coerced foreign domination, not for domination over others or even for the exclusion of others. It can be criticised (what cannot?) but nationalism’s focus was freedom: self-determination, self-expression, authentically liberated community. (In my book, <em>Les Idoles de la tribu</em>,1989, I have shown the Kantian origins of liberal nationalism in the idea of ‘autonomy’ or ‘self-rule’, literally: giving laws to oneself.) </p><p>Calling racism and ethnicism ‘nationalism’ or ‘populism’ does not help. No one is justified in erasing the difference between oppression and emancipation – the Russian <em>narodniki</em>, the Populists were fighting heroically for the emancipation of the serfs, after all – this is why we ought to stop this nonsense. <span class="mag-quote-center">No one is justified in erasing the difference between oppression and emancipation.</span></p> <h2><strong>Chaos</strong></h2> <p>This is not to say that there is no great chaos in politics. Take the example of the <a href="">anti-corruption demonstrations</a> in <a href="">Romania</a> – so much celebrated by the western and central European press. I shall not recount the story, more or less known to everybody, how the governing, allegedly ‘social democratic’ PSD party in a <em>Nacht-und-Nebel-Aktion</em> passed a law which, among other things, would have excused corrupt politicians, and how gigantic demonstrations forced them to withdraw. There is absolutely no doubt that the PSD politicians are corrupt, nationalist and conservative (like their opponents), in spite of quite a few welfarist measures, and that huge shadowy networks linked to them are sucking out tax revenue from the state coffers in a country that, for all its undeniable economic success, is still very poor and unequal. </p> <p>But the conflict in Romania is not between nice civil libertarians and nasty, thieving, anti-democratic nationalists, but something else altogether. It is the protest of a caste: young, educated, middle-class, urban, pro-European and pro-western, sweet-smelling, well dressed, with a withering contempt for the country bumpkins, the old-age pensioners, the ‘post-Stalinist’ workers – youngsters calling themselves and being called by the adoring media ‘the beautiful people’. <span class="mag-quote-center">The trouble is that the protests are clearly authoritarian, calling for punishment.</span></p> <p>The trouble is that the protests are clearly authoritarian, calling for punishment, prison, expulsion for the political adversary and are also clearly situated in favour of one party in the power conflict: president Klaus Johannis, plus the special prosecutor’s office bringing files into court put together by the proportionally largest secret service anywhere (30,444 collaborators, larger than the German service and twice the size of Ceauşescu’s infamous Securitate) that seems to have taken over the entire state and large chunks of the media. It is like under the Austrian version of enlightened absolutism: modernity and development are linked not to the public sphere and not to political deliberation, but to the secret state, unaccountable and impenetrable. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Several thousand protest on Victory square in front of the Romanian government headquarters against proposals to ease anti-graft legislation,February, 2017. NurPhoto SIPA USA /Press Association. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>This is the kind of modernization – together with the demand of a severe punitive justice and of purges – that ‘the beautiful people’ want with a ‘rule of law’ which does not, in this case, imply popular participation, political pluralism and an autonomous <em>Öffentlichkeit</em>, only ‘transparency’: the transparency of the Panopticon, where everybody is watched and kept morally sound by the round-the-clock gaze of the spy. And like everywhere in eastern Europe, paranoias abound: the hidebound nationalists suspect the symbol George Soros <em>(‘the Jew’)</em> of being behind everything, while according to ‘the beautiful people’, it is the symbol Vladimir Putin <em>(‘the Communist’)</em> who is the ghost in this machine. </p><h2><strong>Elite uprisings and unpleasant opinions </strong></h2> <p>While class conflict and its cultural expression is at the basis of the confrontation – the élite’s uprising against The People, and not vice versa – exploited and oppressed classes are everywhere turning against other oppressed people: nowadays mostly against the refugees or against minorities or gays or even against the young pro-western middle class who are not themselves the exploiters, but the dupes and the unwitting agents of the exploiters. </p> <p>Their xenophobia, however, is only an opinion (unpleasant to be sure, yet still only an opinion). But the refugees are turned back by the great capitalist states. While the European press thunders against Donald Trump, the kind German government and its liberal allies are doing exactly what he so far just talks about. The European frontier police, Frontex is already more brutal with refugees than its US counterpart is intended to be. Viktor Orbán’s fence of shame at the Serbian border is now guarded by the Austrian army also, the army of a neutral country that has just elected itself an impeccable Green-liberal president, lovely, friendly Herr Van der Bellen. (By the way, the Hungarian law that gives police powers to the army, unprecedented in peacetime, has now been emulated by the Austrian powers-that-be.) Meanwhile, the decision of the socialist-led Austrian government to reward those entrepreneurs willing to employ more people, has recently been amended – by the social democrats! – so that employing immigrants would not count; a few days ago, the home secretary in Vienna proposed a bill according to which ‘anti-state activity’ and ‘non-recognition of the state authority of the Republic of Austria’ will merit two years in prison. It has a nice Stalinist sound to it, does it not? <span class="mag-quote-center">Class conflict and its cultural expression is at the basis of the confrontation – the élite’s uprising against The People, and not vice versa. </span></p> <h2><strong>Déjà vu while Rome burns<br /></strong></h2> <p>The Right is winning everywhere, the Left is being betrayed everywhere, and people are quarrelling about silly definitions. </p> <p>The reactionary counter-revolution using (but not helping) the traditional proletariat and the lower middle class against the underclass, against the precariat – especially if it is ‘ethnic’ – and against the immigrant, creating a cross-class political alliance never seen since the days of colonial conquest, is destroying the Left. </p> <p>The turning of the most important Anglophone countries (Britain and the US) against the European Union might parallel the break-up of the League of Nations which ends the longest peace on the European continent – the Yugoslav and Ukrainian conflicts being classified as skirmishes – and the peril of disorder or of conflagration usually stops progress, particularly towards greater liberty and co-operation.</p> <p>Socialist treason is not new, either. As everybody knows, European socialists (infinitely stronger than today) capitulated in the summer of 1914 to the forces of imperialism and joined the ‘war effort’ by voting for the war credits and by mobilising the notionally ‘internationalist’ working class. Intellectuals of Jewish origin like Henri Bergson, Max Scheler, Georg Simmel, supposed to be cosmopolitan and wary of the anti-Semitic imperialist-nationalist forces, were writing pæans about rebirth by battle and about their ‘host’ nation’s superlative virtues. Anarcho-syndicalists – previously radical pacifists – marched to the right, many becoming fascists later, with one ending up a minister in Pétain’s and Laval’s collaborationist, criminal government during the second world war. </p> <p>The socialist idea was to prevent war by an international general strike. But instead, ethnicity defeated class, and the investment of the working class in the welfare state and in colonialism was continued in the hope of social dividends, with the results we know. <span class="mag-quote-center">Let’s call things by their rightful names.</span></p> <p>Let’s call things by their rightful names. Giving in to racism and xenophobia instead of dealing with the seemingly intractable problem of millions becoming ‘superfluous populations’ because of technological development (digitalization, robotization, automation) and of financial crisis and of the retrenchment of global demand; putting up fences to stop these millions trying to escape starvation and war instead of spreading the benefits universally; making deals with tyrants such as Erdogan, Modi or al-Sisi; being silent about the predicament of groups like the Rohingya; becoming more and more similar to the enemy – this is what the official Left are doing, and the name for this is treason. </p> <p>It isn’t true that there is no difference between Left and Right, but it is true that the Left is disappearing fast, like it did in 1914. </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><em>This article benefited from the insights of <strong>Veronica Lazăr</strong> but she is not, of course, responsible for anything that I have written here. </em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href=""><img style="padding-top: 10px;" src="//" /></a>openDemocracy was at the World Forum for Democracy, exploring the relationship between inequality, education and democracy. </p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/g-m-tam%C3%A1s/meaning-of-refugee-crisis">The meaning of the refugee crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/g-m-tam%C3%A1s/on-solidarity">On Solidarity</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/people-newright/article_306.jsp">What is Post-fascism?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/philippe-marli-re-antonis-galanopoulos/strange-death-of-social-democracy-in-europ">The strange death of social democracy in Europe</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/etienne-balibar/populism-and-counter-populism-in-atlantic-mirror"> &#039;Populism&#039; and &#039;counter-populism&#039; in the Atlantic mirror</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/etienne-balibar/in-war">In war</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/kerem-oktem/zombie-politics-europe-turkey-and-disposable-human">Zombie politics: Europe, Turkey and the disposable human</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Hungary </div> <div class="field-item even"> Romania </div> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> <div class="field-item even"> Turkey </div> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> <div class="field-item even"> Egypt </div> <div class="field-item odd"> India </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? India Egypt United States Turkey EU Romania Hungary Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Equality Ideas International politics Brexit2016 World Forum for Democracy 2016 G. M. Tamás Populism: what is it? Fri, 24 Feb 2017 16:38:15 +0000 G. M. Tamás 109070 at Secretive DUP Brexit donor links to the Saudi intelligence service <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The DUP's revelation about their Brexit donation leaves us with more questions than answers...</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>DUP leader Arlene Foster. Image -</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The shadowy donor group that gave the Democratic Unionist Party £425,000 during the Brexit referendum campaign has links to the former Director General of the Saudi intelligence service – also the father of the current Saudi Ambassador to the UK – openDemocracy can reveal. </p><p dir="ltr">The donation to Arlene Foster’s party – which was used to fund key Leave campaign advertisements across the UK in the run up to the European referendum – was initially kept hidden because of Northern Ireland’s donor secrecy laws. However, under pressure from activists after <a href="">openDemocracy revealed</a> how Brexit campaigners were funnelling dark money through Northern Ireland to fund “Take Back Control” adverts, the Democratic Unionist Party was forced last night to reveal its major donor to be a group calling itself <a href="">the Constitutional Research Council</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Little is known about the Constitutional Research Council, including where it got these funds from. However, we do know one thing: it is chaired by the <a href="">Scottish Conservative Richard Cook</a>. </p><p dir="ltr">And openDemocracy can reveal that Cook has strong links with Saudi Arabia – which was seen by economists as a likely beneficiary from Brexit.</p><p dir="ltr">In 2013, Cook founded a company called <a href=";Expires=1487932267&amp;Signature=IR0R5NwT1QMgmxyqdzMWrFNeMP4%3D&amp;x-amz-security-token=FQoDYXdzEOn%2F%2F%2F%2F%2F%2F%2F%2F%2F%2FwEaDPFLtbx8Y8%2BsvWWMMiKcA9QqO34CQ4E5QACzqT2UeTUjNCa8mx9Os350PIC05eE04S7A4UfRWhUawQJNz2nUl9KBMSI6BIW7GvCJOQUjS0lhyjWT8SE6KWelVtrg%2FqTW9Y4rFC9b%2Bm160O2CPqIzFE7PBxdmS1GhvXGhkDd5et1WGLIxSaDfo3M%2Fz8yaBaZlJA1GGzGjrPQZne0LICeBK%2BXZf%2FvZLJtHIuVA%2BRrXFhwQuYnml7DLwaMGBGNl0ApGKdVxRE1FWBJvnMGklNcRFHMLJhyGSS8Dfc3Ib0M0BK9ApFHvrlo%2FifRiTIEKjFsKQlbygOhLZLMg%2Fdeju3eoXmT8p3Dco4bPNjAEsDw6dN1gXRsbkrobfoAIaXR0BX5hfO7DagUP8P09hapHPydNg7JwFU6lJgwu32HBORS65w9wRGqhztm%2FY4nBvgyibQK1aLPLPWUk1GwRsqB8fsCIkOYuXFzJ%2FEev7SiYt7FIv0SXGSIAORCceUS679zzcVjQARPV5GIF2PV7%2B8M3muvPLAS%2BoV0M3MkUPsf3DZM1Wkr4HIRqbvxF0T6u3U0onM2%2FxQU%3D">Five Star Investment Management Ltd</a> with the former head of the Saudi Arabian intelligence agency, Prince Nawwaf bin Abdul Aziz. The prince’s son is the Saudi ambassador to the UK.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href=";Expires=1487932267&amp;Signature=IR0R5NwT1QMgmxyqdzMWrFNeMP4%3D&amp;x-amz-security-token=FQoDYXdzEOn%2F%2F%2F%2F%2F%2F%2F%2F%2F%2FwEaDPFLtbx8Y8%2BsvWWMMiKcA9QqO34CQ4E5QACzqT2UeTUjNCa8mx9Os350PIC05eE04S7A4UfRWhUawQJNz2nUl9KBMSI6BIW7GvCJOQUjS0lhyjWT8SE6KWelVtrg%2FqTW9Y4rFC9b%2Bm160O2CPqIzFE7PBxdmS1GhvXGhkDd5et1WGLIxSaDfo3M%2Fz8yaBaZlJA1GGzGjrPQZne0LICeBK%2BXZf%2FvZLJtHIuVA%2BRrXFhwQuYnml7DLwaMGBGNl0ApGKdVxRE1FWBJvnMGklNcRFHMLJhyGSS8Dfc3Ib0M0BK9ApFHvrlo%2FifRiTIEKjFsKQlbygOhLZLMg%2Fdeju3eoXmT8p3Dco4bPNjAEsDw6dN1gXRsbkrobfoAIaXR0BX5hfO7DagUP8P09hapHPydNg7JwFU6lJgwu32HBORS65w9wRGqhztm%2FY4nBvgyibQK1aLPLPWUk1GwRsqB8fsCIkOYuXFzJ%2FEev7SiYt7FIv0SXGSIAORCceUS679zzcVjQARPV5GIF2PV7%2B8M3muvPLAS%2BoV0M3MkUPsf3DZM1Wkr4HIRqbvxF0T6u3U0onM2%2FxQU%3D">Five Star Investment Management Ltd</a>, was registered at Mr Cook’s Glasgow address and lists as one of its other three initial shareholders HRH Prince Nawwaf bin Abdul Aziz, whose address is listed as a palace in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, according to filings at Companies House. The firm also filed no accounts with Companies House, and was dissolved in December 2014.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// Shot 2017-02-24 at 11.30.20.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Shot 2017-02-24 at 11.30.20.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="229" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screengrab from the founding documents of Richard Cook's newest company.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Prince Nawwaf bin Abdul Aziz, who died in 2015, was a senior prince in the Saudi Court, and between <a href="">1 September 2001</a> and <a href=";src=pm">January 2005</a> he served as head of the Saudi intelligence agency. His son, Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf Al Saud, is the <a href="">Saudi Ambassador to the UK</a>. </p><p dir="ltr">The weekend after the European referendum, the website Arab News reported the chief <a href="">economist of Saudi Arabia’s largest bank and other Saudi economists arguing</a> that the vote was good news for Saudi Arabia due to the collapse in the value of the pound. The Saudi Intelligence services have been widely criticised <a href="">for their use of torture</a>. </p><p dir="ltr">Cook has had other business dealings abroad. In 2012, the <a href="">BBC reported</a> that Cook, through his company <a href="">Cook Consulting (UK) Ltd</a>, was involved in a £640 million deal with the Port Qasim Authority in Pakistan. However, the company had dissolved <a href=";Expires=1487939331&amp;Signature=Wb2nzoDca59%2FbIMCoejhIAo7VLQ%3D&amp;x-amz-security-token=FQoDYXdzEOn%2F%2F%2F%2F%2F%2F%2F%2F%2F%2FwEaDMn7CAMoNQ8Gw4l2%2BiK3A5Q83mxn93dBJdt8MNbint2vY%2BIOLfGlYXtCKuqunvWj%2BemhqtEke%2BZ%2FrKT13kdOpgkuusbhfeCLcbGhh7E%2BiGhAU2NEF8eO6yjzpJywncUa18hEYz2r2rZQs9R5ZUeFVwAhFQ1Ijw8leZ2J3jdAIFuaSMhbgWocNIBMj81hGMcB26N5IPzyJBvnlApNE%2BX0if%2F05wg5uy0gBCIEKvxTHl3xbT%2BIhcFNbZgilutZnk%2BQr0GxLky5CHksl0cUyQGn56erscWaYIcm%2FcGvMQUeSCIajy6sDMqcfU6kvcPcFKMPKVJEI3EJSEkH0QI0SlZAVPS5WIxlP%2F4R448vAtw7E2WE84adThrNgnm6A035bruvcTMgBDemnle4VXrxqEEXvztm4aq47UjIyiKEVOnVFMX7hLz1dfjkixX%2FIof9WKFV0HZTfb4jq3KsPUaQThKz8zoBl3PVSawCRQ3IiCn13J0TeTWF5HEUlP76W25yL9bvNkgilNzw9dg8U2FRZdyvgvod0vmtxDDdHP4cywSfNR7XtH6Y5Q30upBMKiLxObjBkepU8jsC6RueE%2FqZi95OhB60XCUyamMoq9W%2FxQU%3D">by June 2015</a>, and did not file any accounts with Companies House. According to Companies House, Richard Cook has founded a number of businesses in recent years, often listed at the same two-storey house in suburban Glasgow, which 118118 confirms is his address. </p><p dir="ltr">How long Cook has been chair of the Constitutional Research Council is unclear. The group has not revealed its membership, and is not a company or a charity. However, it claims to have been set up after disquiet with the pro-union Better Together campaign during the 2014 Scottish independence referendum.</p><p dir="ltr">During the Brexit campaign, the Constitutional Research Council availed itself of Northern Ireland’s donor secrecy laws to donate over £425,000 to the DUP. The unionist party named the CRC as their donors on Thursday night, ahead of Friday’s release of Brexit referendum campaign spending by the Electoral Commission.</p><p dir="ltr">How – and why – the CRC decided to donate the cash to the DUP is unclear. But we do know that its chair was not always a fan of secret political donations – back in 2010, Richard Cook ran for parliament in Eastwood, outside Glasgow, he publicly pledged that he would “publish online details of all donations of more than £1,000, in line with Electoral Commission rules”. Cook polled 15,567 votes, finishing second behind Jim Murphy.</p><p dir="ltr">The DUP has said that the Brexit campaign funding – which the party refused to disclose until pressure in the wake of openDemocracy’s revelations last week – was “a great success”. "It was right for a Northern Ireland party to put its shoulder to the wheel of the national campaign," DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson <a href="">wrote in the Belfast Telegraph</a>. </p><p dir="ltr">However, the DUP’s revelation that a shady group with no clear history of activity beyond funnelling money to right-wing causes was the source of its vast campaign donation in fact leaves us no clearer about where the Brexit campaign cash actually came from – including any potential links to the Saudi Arabian intelligence agency. </p><p dir="ltr">In 2014, <a href="">the Bureau of Investigative Journalists revealed that the Conservative party</a> had been receiving donations from obscure ‘front groups’, which allow money to be channeled into British politics from unknown sources. If, as seems to be the case, this is what happened with the DUP donation, all that we know for sure is that the true source of the cash hid it in not one, but two loopholes.</p><p dir="ltr">The Constitutional Research Council also gave a donation of £6,500 to Conservative MP Steve Baker, as listed in his register of interests. openDemocracy rang his office to see if they could shed more light on who this secretive organisation are. They agreed to look into it and get back on Monday.</p><p dir="ltr">Cook, who is former Scottish <a href="">director of</a> the Campaign Against Political Correctness, former Scottish representative <a href="">of Conservative Friends of Israel</a>, and former vice chairman of the Scottish Conservatives, <a href="">has now pledged</a> his organisation will pour dark money into opposing Scottish independence in any future referendum on the question, complaining in the Herald today about the negativity of the Better Together campaign in 2014. According to the paper, the CRC backed Brexit in last year’s European Union referendum after coming to the conclusion that leaving the EU would be good for the Union and "bad for nationalism".</p><p dir="ltr">In a statement on Thursday, Richard Cook said: "The CRC exists to support constitutional pro-Union causes. We were delighted that one such cause we've been able to support was the DUP's Leave campaign." </p><p dir="ltr">The DUP’s so-called revelation tells us nothing about the true origins of their vast campaign donation. They merely opened one curtain to reveal another behind it. All we do know is that the chair of the front group through which the money came had close business links with the former director general of the Saudi Intelligence Service, whose son is the Saudi Ambassador to the UK. </p><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy called Richard Cook a number of times but was unable to reach him for comment. We will continue to try to contact him.&nbsp; </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/you-aren-t-allowed-to-know-who-paid-for-key-leave-campaign-adverts">The &#039;dark money&#039; that paid for Brexit</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Arab Awakening uk Peter Geoghegan Adam Ramsay Fri, 24 Feb 2017 15:04:53 +0000 Adam Ramsay and Peter Geoghegan 109069 at The current and future challenges of Middle Eastern studies <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In the wake of Trump's victory, what are the challenges for Middle Eastern studies in the US? And what should be the role of academics in the field? </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href=""><img src="//" alt="wfd" width="460px" /></a></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// Shot 2017-02-24 at 00.13.27.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Shot 2017-02-24 at 00.13.27.png" alt="" title="" width="449" height="229" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot of a 2015 lecture by Dr. Bahgat Korany. </span></span></span>Two streets away from the finishing line of the Boston Marathon bombing’s site of 2013, and a few days after the announcement of Donald Trump winning the race to the White House, around 2000 experts and students of Middle Eastern studies gathered in downtown Boston to take part in the famous annual convention of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA). Many individuals came to participate in the convention’s 300 panels; some to seek job opportunities, few to attend meetings, but almost everyone came to also seize this opportunity to socialize with colleagues. </p><p>While the television screen in the hotel lobby was split into equal squares, with three CNN discussants commenting on the selection of Michael Flynn—an ex-general who was sacked for incompetence and who is remembered as saying that Islam is an ideology masquerading as religion—as a National Security Advisor in Trump's forthcoming administration, members of MESA were in session voting in favor of a resolution to edit out the word “nonpolitical” from the influential association’s bylaws. The step was necessary to move closer towards the cause of adopting a boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israeli academic institutions. In addition, as some MESA members see the issue, it is an accurate description of some of the projects that scholars in the field are engaged in, and protects MESA from frivolous legal claims.</p><p class="mag-quote-left">What should be the role of academics in the field, in terms of influence within academia and reaching beyond it?</p><p>An important development that came on the heels of Trump’s win is the surfacing of watchlists produced by uber-nationalist ‘ultra-right’ activists; reechoing the mood of the McCarthyist era and targeting several “leftist” and Middle Eastern studies experts and students. For a long time, MESA has drawn a plethora of accusations; ranging from irrelevance to US national interests, to ideological preferences in representing Middle Eastern people and the causes of the regions’ civil society, and of being overtly critical of US foreign policy and involvement in the Middle East.</p><p>What do such challenges mean for MESA scholarship? What is its position in relation to other academic disciplines? What should be the role of the academics in the field, in terms of influence within academia and reaching beyond it? Should it be a tribune of voices from the region, or a distant, objective examiner?</p><p>When I sat down with Beth Baron, president of the 2016 MESA, to ask her these questions, she started by answering: “While the region is under tremendous stress, the field is blossoming. The scholarship is cutting-edge.” She shares with other MESA specialists the opinion that one of the reasons for such quality of scholarship is the inclusion of many scholars from the Middle East, who bring with them cross-disciplinary insights. There are other factors, of course, including the internet, which made studying the region easier in real-time, as well as the mounting focus on field research, and not just textual analysis, or the introduction of new special academic programs and journals. She also noted that, “history, in specific, is becoming thematically sophisticated”.</p><p>But the picture is not as bright as we might think. As a field, Middle Eastern Studies (MES) is an area-study that has had its share of controversies and politicization. This year’s MESA convention is special. It is special because of the immediate context; both the atmosphere in the post-Trump, ‘post-fact’ US, as well as the turmoil shaking up the Middle East and lurking in the background (I believe the world has always been post-fact. Trump only mastered manipulating that condition). Whether a publisher, or a presenter, a PhD candidate, or a tenured academic, the name Trump found its way out of the mouths of everyone I met, and rightfully so.</p><p>“With the ascendency of Trump, we are setting up a task force to study the effects of this new climate on the field as a whole,” explained Nathan Brown, professor of Middle Eastern law and politics at George Washington University, and a former president of MESA himself (2013-2015). “One of my concerns and focuses will also be to create a safe environment in the classroom, not just for my Middle Eastern students, but for Trump supporters as well--agreement is not a goal but understanding is,” as he emphasized. There is definitely better societal outreach and influence on policy, according to him. Still, this does not seem near enough, especially with regard to US policy on how to combat terrorism, an issue which became a defining theme of US foreign policy.</p><p class="mag-quote-right">With the region being battered by the tumultuous times of our age, MES is facing increasing challenges</p><p>It might be said, however, that just like other area-studies, which are all by definition inter- and multidisciplinary (combining history, literature, language, and politics); MES has been painted in a somewhat contemptuous light, compared to disciplinary sciences, like political science and history. Although this tension is not exclusive to it, yet it takes a special dimension in relation to MES. Experts in disciplinary sciences often argue that area studies are lacking in theoretical rigor, as well as for insufficient inclusion of the ‘universal’ ideas and principles that permeate disciplinary methodology. Another aspect of the criticism targeting area studies is their lack of instrumentality in serving policy, particularly US foreign policy. These reasons have inspired Martin Kramer, a controversial Middle East expert who previously served as a senior advisor to Rudy Giuliani in 2007, to author a widely-read book that is highly critical of the field, <em>Ivory Towers on Sand</em>, which calls for bringing the field back to orientalist roots, in order to serve imperial-like needs. His book is especially critical of two theoretical subjects in the MES: democratization and civil societies.</p><p>When compared to MESA, which is known for its rejection of orientalist discourse, the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa (ASMEA), with its far fewer members, wields much more clout in terms of influence on US foreign policy. Kramer, along with his mentor Bernard Lewis, an arch-authority in orientalist approaches studying the Middle East, co-founded ASMEA.</p><p>Such concerns were previously successfully utilized as a case against funding MES in the US after 9/11; culminating in 2003 with the US Congress passing the International Studies in Higher Education Act H.R. 3077, creating an inquisitorial advisory committee to oversee teaching of MES in US universities.</p><p>MES also has its own counter-argument against social science disciplines. MES experts who are in the thick of this tension argue that it is the parochialism of disciplinary social sciences, and their one-size-fits-all view and first-world-focused universal principles that are at the crux of this tense relationship. In a valuable paper by Pinar Bilgin, a professor of International Relations at Bilkent University, entitled: "What Future for Middle Eastern Studies?" she argues that in the light of this tension, there are three possible futures for MES; first, going back to the orientalist roots of MES, as suggested by Kramer, second, MES aligning itself with disciplinary theory and method, or, third, more innovatively, using interdisciplinary, cross-disciplinary, and comparative insights to strengthen and completing disciplinary sciences through ‘testing’ and modifying the applicability of their theories in real world contexts; thereby freeing disciplinary sciences from their self-inflicted parochialism and western-centrism.</p><p>In a forthcoming paper by Pinar, in which she ultimately calls for a ‘cross-fertilization’ between MES and the social science disciplines, she examines this tense relationship between these two camps, within her work on security studies in the Mediterranean. Through her findings, she shows how parochial limitations of the disciplines of world politics work in action (mainly that what is thought of as “universal” is western-centric and embeds western interests and limiting epistemology). Pinar borrowed this concept of cross fertilization from the work of Morten Valbjorn, Aarhus University. She also demonstrates how ignoring local voices, elites and otherwise, in the region is detrimental to scholarly findings and perspectives. This last point surely would have helped MES experts anticipate the tidal waves of the ‘Arab Spring.’</p><p>In October this year, Kramer stood in front of an ASMEA crowd and delivered a speech in which he cited the failure of interdisciplinary MES in predicting the 'Arab Spring' as proof of the superiority of his proposed approach. Pinar’s argument of focusing more on non-state actors, and away from the western interest-focused, orientalist outlook, seems to be a more balanced solution that surely would not only strengthen disciplinary theories, but also help predict social phenomena; even though prophecies and predictions are not the objective of academic research.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">MES enriched academia worldwide with valuable contributions, like the critical theory of orientalism and other valuable contributions to postcolonial criticism.</p><p>But this tension does not equally affect MES in all disciplines, as relations with different disciplinary sciences differ. There is of course a difference in applying theory in MES, as emphasized by Bahgat Korany, one of the most renowned authorities in the field of MES, between the perception of the role of theories in soft sciences (history, sociology, anthropology), on the one hand, and in hard sciences (economics, and psychology).</p><p>“I come from anthropology, where there has been a longstanding conversation regarding the relationship between researchers and the communities they study, and where there has been a drive for anthropologists to advocate for the societies they represent,” comments Angie Abdelmonem, Graduate Student Member of the Board of MESA. As a discipline which requires extensive field work and ethnographic efforts, anthropology naturally deals with the issue of representation. It also enjoys a more progressive political stance among its practitioners. For example, The American Anthropological Association (AAA) beat MESA into adopting a resolution to send BDS to a membership vote in its annual business meeting last year (a resolution which was later defeated by a narrow lead by full AAA members). Expounding more on the issue of activism and representation, she continues: “There has been a significant attempt to bring together NGO activities and academia, including more collaborative efforts between NGO activists, scholars, and students. I myself am involved in such efforts. 'Giving back' is a critical facet of the relationship between researchers and their interlocutors.”</p><p>With the region being battered by the tumultuous times of our age, MES is facing increasing challenges, some of which are challenges ‘from above,’ that are common with other area studies, like disciplinary analytic pretension, and others from outside the field, like diminishing funds and ideological attacks by opposing political actors and institutions. Other challenges are particular, like the politicization of the field by voices from within and without, something that will surely exacerbate under Trump’s reign. Other challenges ‘from below,’ include the dangerous environments in the Middle East and restrictions on academic freedom and freedom of expression. Listening to voices of people and experts from the region itself is surely lacking, and is welcome. This will certainly help the field put disciplinary theory and method to task. It can be said that it is these mounting challenges that face this particular field, rather than any claims to the particularism of the region, that are likely to make the field stronger, in the same way that the field has enriched academia worldwide with valuable contributions, like the critical theory of orientalism and other valuable contributions to postcolonial criticism.</p><p><strong><em>A shorter version of this article was published by The National on February 16, 2017 under the title <a href="">Under historic challenge, what is the future of Middle Eastern studies?</a></em></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href=""><img style="padding-top: 10px;" src="//" /></a>openDemocracy was at the World Forum for Democracy, exploring the relationship between inequality, education and democracy. </p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/wfd/ahdaf-soueif-nick-buxton/our-common-ground-salute-to-young-global-collective">Our common ground: a salute to the Young Global Collective </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arab-awakening/mishana-hosseinioun/original-sin-of-us-foreign-policy-in-middle-east">The original sin of US foreign policy in the Middle East</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Science </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Arab Awakening Arab Awakening Science north america middle east Education the future of higher education World Forum for Democracy 2016 Tarek Ghanem Fri, 24 Feb 2017 14:46:48 +0000 Tarek Ghanem 108443 at Surviving sociology in Egypt and elsewhere <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Strangely, although nationalism is a pervasive social phenomenon with immense effects everywhere in the world, it’s not a central preoccupation of sociology or any of the dominant social science disciplines. Interview.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href=""><img src="//" alt="wfd" width="460px" /></a></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// Shot 2017-02-23 at 23.27.37.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Shot 2017-02-23 at 23.27.37.png" alt="" title="" width="459" height="231" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot from After the Battle - Yousri Nasrallah</span></span></span></p><p><i>This is the first interview of a series on the dilemmas and contradictions researchers encounter in undertaking research in the Middle East. The idea of interviewing social scientists on the processes of the production of knowledge has been inspired from Michael Burawoy’s concept of &nbsp;‘public sociology’, which he initiated and was followed by other sociologists who carried out further interviews with social scientists in ‘Global Dialogue’.</i><i> <br /></i></p> <p><i>These interviews will attempt to focus on questions of methodology, equally, on the obstacles encountered by researchers when undertaking fieldwork in enduring political upheavals. It will also attempt to highlight the multiple and varied trajectories and voices which a younger generation of social scientists in the Middle East have been confronting. </i></p><p><b><i>Mona Abaza (MA)</i></b><i>: Your research in Egypt has been about nationalism, intellectuals, and social movements. How did you get interested in these topics?</i><i></i></p> <p><b>Benjamin Geer(BG)</b>: 
I got interested in nationalism and intellectuals while learning Arabic in Egypt. I was watching Egyptian films and reading Egyptian novels to help me learn the language, and I realised that many of them are about different ways of seeing Egyptians as a nation. </p> <p>I wanted to find out how these ideas had been produced and why, and this became the topic of my doctorate and of my first academic journal article.
I ended up seeing nationalism as a competitive arena in which intellectuals and politicians promote rival views of the nation. I came to see it as a dangerous game, because when you look carefully at these concepts, it becomes clear that they're all based on illusions, that nations aren't real. There's a school of thought that says it doesn't matter whether nations are real, because people behave as if they are. But false beliefs can have very destructive effects: think of witch trials, or the denial of climate science. Belief in nations is dangerous because, since they're imaginary, you can say whatever you want about them and no one can prove you wrong. </p> <p>When a charismatic leader persuades a lot of people that he speaks for the nation, and that whatever he says or does is therefore justified, terrible things can happen, as they did in Egypt after the 1952 military coup. Similar tragedies have happened in many other places, and I fear that we may be about to see many more of them because of the global resurgence of nationalism.

</p> <p>As I studied the lives of Egyptian nationalist intellectuals who either became propagandists for the military dictatorship or were crushed by it, I concluded that nationalism tends to undermine the autonomy of intellectuals. After my PhD, I started to wonder how intellectuals can become more autonomous, especially in an authoritarian state. I published a book chapter on the Egyptian filmmaker, <a href="">Yousry Nasrallah</a>, who has made a number of films that are relatively autonomous from the interests of the Egyptian state, as well as from the demands of the Arab film market. He managed to do this in part because he made art films that were recognised as such in Europe. This gave him access to European public funding for independent cinema production, which was basically detached from political and commercial considerations.</p> <p>While I was teaching at the American University in Cairo, I got interested in the problems of academics in the Arab world. In Egypt, the state’s security services interfere directly in academic affairs and campus activities, especially to make life difficult for political dissidents. In 2012, I learned that a group of Egyptian academics called the March 9 Group for University Autonomy had been campaigning against this interference for nearly a decade, with some success. I interviewed some of them to try to find out how they had managed to do this. In a journal article, I argued that the group’s survival and successes had depended on the involvement of renowned scholars, on participatory democracy, and on the avoidance of conflicts between professors. Paradoxically, after the revolutionary uprising of January 2011, all these assets became liabilities, and the group lost its energy.</p> <p>That article was a humble attempt at public sociology. I tried to strike a balance between making a theoretical argument and making it accessible to non-specialists, and I published it in an open-access journal, which is the bare minimum required to enable lay people to benefit from research as well as to criticise it. I also wanted it to be accessible to people in Egypt who don’t read English, so I published it again in an Arabic translation, in an Arabic-language sociology journal. I think the people that we researchers write about should be able to find out what we’re saying about them. Otherwise, research resembles gossip, or talking about people behind their backs.
</p> <p><i>MA: You had a number of other jobs before getting into academia. What was your social background? How did you get interested in Arabic culture?</i><i></i></p> <p><b>BG:</b> I was born in New York in 1969, and raised by my mother, an orchestral musician. She was the first in her family to get a university education, and juggled several jobs to make ends meet. I learned a lot from her about how to question social norms. As a teenager I liked computer programming, but I wanted to be a jazz musician. I studied music and philosophy at Hampshire College, known as an experimental college with no grades, exams, or required courses. I started to get interested in how knowledge is produced and how concepts are constructed, but I didn't yet know that what I was interested in was called sociology and cognitive linguistics.</p> <p>Jazz was a difficult way to make a living, so I decided to get another degree. I was intrigued by academic debates about the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which says that the languages we speak shape the way we think. I was a monolingual English speaker, and I wanted to learn to think in another language to find out how different it really is. Also, I was starting to feel that American culture is a sort of bubble, and that I needed to get out of it to find out what else there is. I spent a year teaching myself French by watching films, then did an MA in French. I was lucky enough to be able to take courses in cognitive linguistics, a heterodox branch of linguistics. Then I went to France on an exchange programme for a year as an English-language teaching assistant. I worked hard to internalise an unfamiliar set of social conventions and to think in French, and ended up feeling very much at ease. When I returned to New York in 1996, I had a severe culture shock. Now I felt more foreign in the US than I had in France.</p> <p>Although I had two degrees and was now bilingual, my main qualification on the job market seemed to be that I could type very fast. So I joined the army of temporary workers who typed and edited financial reports on Wall Street. By sheer luck, a friend helped me get into the business of developing web sites, and suddenly I had a career in software development. </p> <p>It never would have occurred to me that I could do that without a degree in computer science. A couple of years later I was offered a job at a software company in London, and I jumped at the chance to return to Europe.
London’s cosmopolitanism was a refreshing change from the American bubble. There I drifted into leftist political activism, and played a small role in the alter-globalisation movement of the early 2000s, which campaigned to limit the power of the global financial markets. </p> <p>In February 2003, I participated in a huge demonstration against the US-led invasion of Iraq. It struck me that in the London activist circles I knew, hardly anyone seemed to speak Arabic or know much about the Arab world. I had been wanting to learn a non-Indo-European language anyway, so I started to learn Arabic.</p> <p>It was clear that I wasn’t going to become fluent in spoken Arabic without living in an Arabic-speaking environment. In 2005, having saved some money from software development, I quit my job and moved to Cairo to study Arabic for two years. During that time I also started reading sociology. By 2007, Cairo felt like home, and I had decided to try an academic career. I did an MA and PhD in Middle East Studies at SOAS in London, during which time I spent another year in Egypt for archival research. One day I was looking at Pierre Bourdieu’s diagram of the religious field, in an article from the 1960s that nobody reads any more, and I had a sort of eureka moment: I realised that I could analyse nationalism in the same way. From then on, I struggled to be a sociologist in an area-studies field.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="// Shot 2017-02-23 at 23.28.52.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Shot 2017-02-23 at 23.28.52.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460"/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><i>MA: Why was it a struggle?</i></p> <p><b>BG:</b> Partly because of the peripheral position of area studies in academia. More central fields like sociology, history, and political science produce theories and job candidates, and area-studies fields consume them, but the reverse rarely happens. With a PhD in area studies, I couldn’t get a job in a sociology or history department, but people with PhDs in sociology or history could get jobs in area studies departments.</p> <p>Also, sociology is not popular in area studies. Traditionally, sociologists have studied their ‘own’ societies, and mainstream sociology is focused on North America and Europe. If you do research in the Arab world, you’re more likely to be an anthropologist, a political scientist, a historian, a literary scholar, or a specialist in Islamic studies. When I applied for jobs and submitted papers to journals, the scholars who evaluated my work were usually from those disciplines. In many cases they weren’t used to thinking in sociological terms, or were actively hostile to such thinking.</p> <p>I also faced resistance to my focus on nationalism, and particularly to my critical view of it. Strangely, although nationalism is a pervasive social phenomenon with immense effects everywhere in the world, it’s not a central preoccupation of sociology or any of the dominant social science disciplines. The most prestigious sociology journals rarely publish papers on nationalism. Instead, the study of nationalism is relegated to an academic backwater called nationalism studies, which is dominated by apologists for nationalism rather than critics of it. Many academics I encountered were content to view nationalism as a benign ‘discourse’ that was already well understood, thanks to one book called <i>Imagined Communities</i>, by political scientist Benedict Anderson. I think Anderson’s theory is full of holes, and doesn’t fit the evidence from the Arab world, but many academics seemed to think I was crazy for not adopting it. My sense is that postmodernist academics, in particular, like it because it enables them to have their cake and eat it too: they can view nationalism as just another discourse that can be deconstructed, and at the same time they can celebrate their own nationalism and that of others. Area studies scholars tend to see nationalism as a force for good, because of the role it has played in struggles against colonialism. They don’t like to be reminded how many of those struggles have led to nationalist dictatorships, as in Egypt.</p> <p>Another problem in a lot of fields, and perhaps especially in Middle East Studies, is that academic work is frequently judged (and seeks to be judged) on the basis of its political merits rather than its scientific ones. I often get the sense that academic papers are implicitly presented as a substitute for or supplement to political activism, and that certain terms, like ‘neoliberalism’, ‘late capitalism’, and ‘the West’ are used mainly to signal this intention. I think postmodernism has exacerbated this problem: when academics reject the whole idea of truth, it becomes impossible to evaluate work in scientific terms, so political criteria are likely to be used instead. </p> <p>But I see this as a dangerous trend. If you’re trying to do science in the public interest, your results had better be correct, otherwise they’re likely to do more harm than good. This means they have to be evaluated according to scientific criteria. Bourdieu argued that a ‘liberating science’ must be, first of all, an autonomous science, and that this has to include autonomy from political aims. That must be one of the least popular assertions ever made by a sociologist.</p> <p>Sociology’s aspiration to make universally valid scientific generalisations only made matters worse for me on the job market. I was once asked, in an academic job interview in the US, why I was using a European theorist (Bourdieu) to explain events in Egypt: shouldn’t I be using an Arab theory instead? I answered as diplomatically as I could that Arab scholars use Marx, Gramsci, Foucault, Bourdieu, etc., just like everyone else, and that trying to create an ‘Arab theory’ for ‘Arab society’ would, in my view, be as misguided as trying to create an ‘American theory’ for ‘American society’. Nationalism, for example, is a global phenomenon, and a theoretical understanding of nationalism has little value unless it can be used to analyse any nationalism, anywhere. </p> <p>I was fortunate to spend a year as Visiting Assistant Professor and Associate Director of the Middle East Studies Center at the American University in Cairo (AUC), but I had to leave because the Egyptian authorities refused to allow my wife to take up the academic position she had been offered at AUC. She had done an ethnographic study on labour unions and factory strikes in the textile industry in the Nile Delta, a politically sensitive topic. When she returned to Egypt in 2011 to teach at AUC, she was turned away at the airport. Later they allowed her into the country, but never granted her a work permit.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="// Shot 2017-02-23 at 23.30.10.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Shot 2017-02-23 at 23.30.10.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460"/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>I then did a one-year post-doc at the National University of Singapore, during which I devoted about half my time to applying for academic jobs, many of which had hundreds of applicants, as the rejection letters helpfully explained. Moving to a different country every year for a series of one-year jobs, and spending half my time applying for them, would have been difficult enough when I was single, but with a family it was out of the question. I decided I had to find a way out of the competition for traditional academic jobs. Again, by sheer luck, I got a job in digital humanities, where I can use my experience both in research and in software development. </p><p><i>MA: What problems do you see for foreigners doing research in Egypt?</i><i></i></p> <p><b>BG: </b>The first obstacle that many foreign students face is learning spoken Arabic. Study-abroad programs generally last a year at most, which is not enough. </p> <p>I think this tends to discourage students from taking on research projects that involve talking to people or using vernacular sources such as film, and to steer them towards relying only on textual sources. In this respect I was lucky to be able to fund two years of language immersion in Egypt before I started doing research there.

</p> <p>During my PhD I struggled with the poor state of Egypt's national archives. Looking for evidence of the development of nationalist terms in the twentieth century, I wanted to see how those terms had been used in newspapers and magazines. But the periodicals archive in Cairo isn’t digitised or searchable. Like many others, I adapted my methodology to the state of the archive. I had a good annotated bibliography of literary reviews, so I used reviews of the literary works of nationalist intellectuals.</p> <p>I was also lucky in that the Egyptian authorities didn't oppose my work. My historical research didn't require the archives that are considered politically sensitive, which can only be accessed with permission from the security services. Nor did I have any trouble when I interviewed Egyptian intellectuals in 2012 and early 2013. My main concern was not to put the participants at risk. I asked them if they wished to remain anonymous, but none did, probably because their views were already well-known. But this is a serious problem for research involving participants who are not public figures, and I think there is no easy solution. </p> <p>You might think you could protect their anonymity by interviewing them from abroad using encrypted communications, but authoritarian states now have sophisticated surveillance technology, so it is actually very difficult to ensure anonymity that way.

</p> <p>Another problem for foreign researchers, especially American ones, has been that some members of the public may suspect them of being spies. The media and the authorities have done much to encourage such suspicions, especially in recent years. Many people in Egypt aren’t used to dealing with foreigners other than tourists, and are unfamiliar with social science research methods. The people I contacted for interviews were academics and cosmopolitan intellectuals; they immediately understood what I was doing and wanted to participate. Still, I was keen to make clear my institutional affiliations and funding sources at the outset; if these had been politically suspect, they might have been used against the participants at a later date.

</p> <p>Since then, it has clearly become much more difficult for both Egyptians and foreigners to do social science research in Egypt. Academic freedom has been severely curtailed, and the gains that the March 9 Group made have been lost again. The torture and murder of Giulio Regeni, an Italian PhD student, in Cairo in 2016 suggests that the risks for foreign researchers in Egypt are now very high.

</p> <p>All these obstacles, taken together, could have unfortunate effects on social science. If foreign students can’t use spoken Arabic, or if fieldwork becomes too risky, they’re likely to do research that relies only on written sources. And if access to archival sources is too limited, they’re likely to rely on canonical texts that are readily available. Then they may be tempted to use those texts to answer questions about everyday life. I especially see this as a common problem in Islamic studies, where there’s a strong demand for scholarship that makes broad generalisations about Islam. There’s nothing wrong with trying to make generalisations, as long as they’re based on good evidence. If you want to answer questions about Islam as it’s actually lived, it’s not enough to read canonical texts. For that, you have to talk to a lot of Muslims and pay attention to what they actually do. That kind of research now seems especially at risk in Egypt.</p> <p><i>MA:&nbsp; What do you think researchers can do about these problems?</i><i></i></p> <p><b>BG: </b>Some researchers are trying to use social media as a substitute for ethnography and interview-based research. But social media users aren't representative of the broader population, and there are many fake accounts created for advertising or propaganda. Attempts to do automated analyses of large numbers of social media posts run into trouble with sarcasm and irony. And in my view, if you study things people say without knowing anything about who they are — for example, their social class — that’s not social science.</p> <p>I think we have to accept that there are now many research questions that we can’t try to answer in Egypt. Instead we should focus on studying what we can study. If a student is studying Arabic and would like to do research in Egypt, I would advise them to learn another dialect and go to another country where there are fewer obstacles and risks. The situation in Egypt may change again, and in the meantime, there’s a lot that universities could do to prepare students better to do fieldwork where it’s still possible to do it. </p> <p>When I did an MA in French in the US, the courses in literature, history, and philosophy were taught in French. Years later, when I did an MA and PhD in Middle East Studies in the UK, I was surprised that no academic courses were offered in Arabic. I think it would make sense to offer social-science degree programs outside the Arab world that include two years of study abroad in an Arabic-speaking country, academic courses in Arabic, and training in ethnographic methods.</p> <p>There’s also a lot that academic institutions could do to make archival research easier. While the national archives in Egypt contain many unique documents, there are also archives at academic institutions and libraries in other countries whose collections overlap, to some extent, with the ones in Egypt. But in many cases, it’s difficult to get access to these collections, and like the ones in Egypt, many of them aren’t digitised or searchable. It’s also not reasonable to expect PhD students to travel to several different countries to read archival materials in person. All these materials should be digitised, searchable, and available for unrestricted use online.</p><p> Finally, when students study texts, we should encourage them to historicise those texts, to see them as the stances of particular authors as particular times, instead of taking them to be timeless expressions of widespread social phenomena. This means having the humility to acknowledge that we can use texts to try to answer some questions and not others. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href=""><img style="padding-top: 10px;" src="//" /></a>openDemocracy was at the World Forum for Democracy, exploring the relationship between inequality, education and democracy. </p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/wfd/arab-awakening/tarek-ghanem/current-challenges-and-future-of-middle-eastern-studies">The current and future challenges of Middle Eastern studies</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arab-awakening/antonio-marchesi/search-for-truth-over-what-happened-to-giulio-regeni">The search for truth over what happened to Giulio Regeni</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> France </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Arab Awakening Arab Awakening France UK United States Egypt Culture Ideas International politics middle east World Forum for Democracy 2016 Mona Abaza Benjamin Geer Fri, 24 Feb 2017 14:45:02 +0000 Benjamin Geer and Mona Abaza 109037 at The search for truth over what happened to Giulio Regeni <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The full truth is important not only for Giulio’s case, but also for the&nbsp;hundreds of Egyptian citizens&nbsp;who have disappeared, many of them almost certainly suffering the same grisly fate that he did. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// copy.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// copy.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Giulio Regeni. Amnesty International.</span></span></span>Probably seven or eight Italians out of every ten now know that there are human rights violations in Egypt. That Egypt isn’t only a place you visit to see the Pyramids or to go scuba-diving in the Red Sea. </p><p>Why is that? It’s because people across Italy have been alerted to the terrible case of the 28-year-old Italian PhD student at Cambridge who was&nbsp;<a href="">abducted, horribly tortured and killed</a>&nbsp;in Cairo just over a year ago. His name, of course, was Giulio Regeni and we at Amnesty Italy have been running a Truth for Giulio (“Verita per Giulio”) campaign ever since. </p><p>The basic symbol for the Verita per Giulio campaign is very simple. We’ve asked people across Italy to hang out a yellow campaign banner with the words “Verita per Giulio” wherever possible. From their windows, their balconies, the facades of public buildings. This simple gesture has taken off throughout the country. Photographs of Giulio’s family with the banner on their small house in the north-east of Italy have been published widely. The image has become almost ubiquitous in Italy. </p><p>The main object of our lobbying has been the adequacy (or otherwise) of the Italian government’s reaction to Giulio’s murder. By mobilising public opinion we believe we’ve successfully pressed the government into taking action. At the beginning, the Italian government’s reaction was surprisingly encouraging. Paolo Gentiloni, then Minister of Foreign Affairs (now Prime Minister) made solemn statements in parliament and to the media saying the Government would accept nothing but the full truth. “We don’t want a convenient truth”, he said. “Diplomacy should not prevent us from being straightforward in asking for the truth”. </p><p>The authorities in Rome also said they’d be adopting&nbsp;proportionate&nbsp;measures. Proportionate was a useful word from Amnesty’s point of view because it allowed us to argue as time went by and little progress was being made that the proportionality requirement needed something else to be done. </p><p>What the Italian government did rather promptly was to withdraw the Italian ambassador to Egypt. This wasn’t typical. Italian diplomacy is traditionally cautious. In response Amnesty argued that commercial relations between Italy and Egypt should be looked into. Not the whole spectrum of commercial relations, but specifically arms and security transfers.&nbsp;We got one small result. The Italian parliament voted to suspend the provision of spare parts for planes Egyptian had bought from Italy. It was an important political statement, although more symbolic than practical. </p><p class="mag-quote-left">We have to push forward in order to prevent the Italian government taking steps backward. </p><p>We have also argued that the Italian government could invoke its rights under Article 30 of the UN Convention Against Torture to set up a tribunal to arbitrate in a dispute with Egypt over the interpretation and application of the convention. If that were not successful, the Italian Government could even unilaterally go to the International Court of Justice. </p><p>However, I don’t think the government is ready to accept that there is actual dispute with Egypt, let alone, take things one or two steps further. But Amnesty’s real objective has been to show that there were other measures that could be adopted if Egypt did not cooperate. The real question is one of&nbsp;political will. We have to push forward in order to prevent the Italian government taking steps backward. </p><p>There has been talk during the last months of sending the Italian ambassador&nbsp;back&nbsp;to Egypt. We hear media reports that the government doesn’t confirm, but has never denied. Apparently the plan is to send the ambassador back “provisionally”. “Provisionally” doesn’t mean anything in diplomatic terms - all diplomatic relations are provisional, as far as I know. </p><p>The Prime Minister has answered questions in press conferences saying that cooperation with Egypt is good, which is not really true, and not a good sign. Unusually, prosecutors in Rome issued a statement after that - when questioned by the media - saying that they had no expectation of improvement in terms of judicial cooperation. There was a different reading of the situation from the executive and the judiciary, which was interesting. </p><p class="mag-quote-right">The Italian authorities are very likely waiting for public attention over Giulio’s case to drop away in order to be allowed more flexibility.</p><p>We know there are big items on the Italian government’s agenda regarding Cairo. These include getting the assistance of Egypt to prevent migrants reaching Italy through Libya, security, anti-terrorism and energy. ENI, a major energy firm in Italy, has substantial operations off the coast of Egypt. So there are business interests at stake as well. The Italian authorities are very likely waiting for public attention over Giulio’s case to drop away in order to be allowed more flexibility. </p><p>We see it precisely as our role to prevent that from happening. That is part of Amnesty’s current campaign. We collected 60,000 signatures calling on the Italian government not to send the ambassador back, handing them to the Prime Minister’s office on 25 January. Meanwhile, we organised&nbsp;<a href="">25 events in towns and cities across Italy</a>&nbsp;with hundreds of participants under the Verita per Giulio banner that day. </p><p>This campaigning plays a key role in relation to the criminal investigations. There are two parallel criminal investigations. One is in Egypt, which is based on the territorial link, which is the standard jurisdictional criterion in criminal cases. The other is based on what we refer to as passive nationality, that is - the nationality of the victim. Giulio was Italian. The Italian criminal investigation into his murder is provided for by Italian law. There are some additional procedural hurdles, but there is no question that the investigation into Giulio’s death will be brought forward by Italian prosecutors. </p><p>It is very important that there should be an investigation in Italy because human rights violations should be investigated by the broadest range of countries possible. In practice, without cooperation from Egypt, the Italian criminal investigation will go nowhere. It is very unlikely that they will ever be able to prosecute anyone if the Egyptians don’t allow that to happen by providing the necessary information. </p><p>So pressure from the Italian government on the Egyptian authorities (including the Egyptian judiciary which is clearly not independent) is essential in order for the Italian investigation to proceed. </p><p>The Egyptian authorities’ reaction to the Giulio Regeni case has been predictable. In my experience, numerous countries follow a set procedure when their security forces are accused of torturing someone, whether it is their own citizen or a foreign national. The first step is simply to deny the facts, to tell lies and set false trails. Giulio’s parents have been told that he was the victim of a robbery and that the five people responsible were&nbsp;<a href="">killed in a shoot-out</a>&nbsp;(surprisingly a couple of them with one bullet in the head, which is highly unlikely in a shoot-out). They talked about Giulio dying in a car accident. There was an autopsy which clearly contradicted that theory. All sorts of stories. </p><p class="mag-quote-left">The Egyptian authorities’ reaction to the Giulio Regeni case has been predictable.</p><p>Once these turn out not to be credible, then step two is usually to provide limited, partial, fragments of the truth. Low-level people are blamed for what happened, but the higher echelons are left untouched. We have the impression that this is more or less where we are at present. There may be prosecutions. This is better than lies. It is one step forward. But it is not what we want. We want the&nbsp;full truth. Truth and justice, which means reparation, which means punishing all those who are responsible. </p><p>The full truth is important not only for Giulio’s case, but also for the&nbsp;<a href="">hundreds of Egyptian citizens</a>&nbsp;who have disappeared, many of them almost certainly suffering the same grisly fate that he did. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/arab-awakening/catherine-gegout/giulio-regeni-egypt-and-deafening-silence-of-europe">Giulio Regeni, Egypt, and the deafening silence of Europe</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arab-awakening/giuseppe-acconcia/regeni-victim-of-regime-of-fear">Regeni: victim of a regime of fear</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/arab-awakening/gilbert-achcar/shame-on-those-who-try-to-justify-giulio-regeni-s-assassination">Shame on those who try to justify Giulio Regeni’s assassination</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arab-awakening/maged-mandour/untouchables-egypt-s-petty-security-officials">The untouchables: Egypt’s petty security officials</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Italy </div> <div class="field-item even"> Egypt </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Arab Awakening Can Europe make it? Arab Awakening Egypt Italy middle east europe human rights Giulio Regeni Antonio Marchesi Fri, 24 Feb 2017 14:24:13 +0000 Antonio Marchesi 109029 at ‘The intellectuals don’t have the answers’: Lebanese documentary wins at Berlinale <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>"What can the ghosts of protests past tell us?" A particularly relevant question that Mary Jirmanus Saba's documentary, <em>A Feeling Greater Than Love, </em>asks, and tries to answer.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="250" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Still from A Feeling Greater Than Love. Courtesy of Mary Jirmanus Saba.</span></span></span>“What can the ghosts of protests past tell us?” asks an intertitle in <a href="">Mary Jirmanus Saba</a>‘s <em>Shuour Akbar Min al-Hob</em> (A Feeling Greater Than Love), which won the <a href="">FIPRESCI</a> (the international film critics’ association) jury award in Berlinale’s edgy <a href="">Forum</a> section this week. </p><p>The 99-minute film — which took the Lebanese writer-director almost seven years to make and was edited by Egyptian editor Louly Seif — mixes interviews, archival footage and clips from Lebanese militant films to tell the story of two strikes, in a southern Lebanon tobacco company and at Beirut’s Gandour biscuit factory, in the early 1970s. Due to their failure and that of the larger revolutionary movement surrounding them, as well as the start of the Lebanese civil war in 1975, they are largely absent from the country’s collective memory.</p> <p class="mag-quote-left">Are we repeating the same gestures, do they bring us closer to justice and equality?</p><p>The 33-year-old filmmaker, who studied social studies and geography in the US before spending several years in Latin America as an organizer of agricultural laborers and as a community television producer, decided to make the film after discovering more about Lebanon’s 1972 uprising and the revolution it almost launched. In relation to the region’s 2011 uprisings, it prompted her to ask: Are we repeating the same gestures, do they bring us closer to justice and equality, and what can we do with a&nbsp;desire for change and unity now?</p> <p>Placing itself in Lebanon’s strong tradition of militant filmmaking, Saba’s film opens avenues for contemplation on the collective failure of the left in Lebanon by juxtaposing footage from works by 1970s activist-filmmakers, such Christian Ghazi and Maroun Baghdadi, with present-day footage of workers who took part in the strikes leading quiet lives in places where not much has changed 40 years later. Farmers pick leaves to sell them to the tobacco company, which still has a monopoly, and when she takes us to the Gandour factory through an old militant film, we realize through a cut to the same location that it is where the Mall of Beirut now stands.</p> <p>Much of<em> A Feeling Greater than Love </em>is devoted to an array of narratives about Fatima Khaweja, a teenaged martyr of the strike whose story, as someone born in the tobacco-producing south who migrated to work at the Gandour factory, was used for political gain by the Communist Party and the more pragmatic Organization for Communist Action. Saba speaks to members of the party and Fatima’s colleagues, family and neighbors, and everyone speaks differently of her involvement in the strike, from an account of her being a powerful party member to not even having ever worked at the factory. This multiplicity, while creating some confusion while viewing the film, enabled Saba to avoid romanticizing Fatima and point to larger questions on appropriation of the memories of martyrs, which is where the film triumphs.</p> <p>Like another recent “hybrid documentary” concerned with labor strikes, <em><a href="">Out on the Street</a> </em>(2015) by Egyptian filmmakers Jasmina Metwaly and Philip Rizk, Saba also uses re-enactment in her multi-layered film. An older man drives around present-day Southern Lebanon in an old Mercedes, using a megaphone to call on passersby not to accept the status quo, to revolt and join the strike at the tobacco factory. But no one even flinches at the sight of his solitary protest.</p> <p class="mag-quote-right">Saba poetically creates a charged, personal account in which Lebanon’s history is a microcosm of the whole region’s fate.</p><p><em>A Feeling Greater Than Love</em> is also a feminist film. Saba sought out women who were involved and many appear in the documentary, some anonymously. These characters speak of their mobilization work, but also at times of their imposed role of sandwich-makers for the protests. A major character is Nadine, an aristocrat involved in the Organization for Communist Action, helping rally the female factory workers, who then moved to France at the war’s outbreak. In a fascinating scene, Saba brings her together with several of the other 1970s activists she has been interviewing to reflect on their dreams at the time, the reality now and where they went wrong. “It’s not the intellectuals who will have the answers,” Nadine says. “If anyone will know how to get out of the situation we’re in now, it’s the workers who will come up with the solution.”</p> <p>By bringing her own texts and questions into the film, Saba poetically creates a charged, personal account in which Lebanon’s history is a microcosm of the whole region’s fate. As countries that led the 2011 uprisings have fallen into civil war or deep social and political divides, <em>A Feeling Greater Than Love </em>is as a document for urgent reflection on how to avoid the errors of the past — as well as on what cinema’s role can be. Its title captures a feeling that many who participated in protests or strikes will relate to, but we are left to wonder whether that feeling is enough to create real change.</p> <p>The members of the FIPRESCI jury, Sasja Koetsier, Rasha Hosny and Rüdiger Suchsland, wrote of Saba’s film: “Documentary cinema at its best, this is exciting, thrilling, encouraging,” and that: “Full of melancholia, it is yet full of hope, the longing for a better future.” Personally I don’t see the film as hopeful, but as an important contribution to the conversation about what better alternatives might be.</p> <p><strong><em>This article was first published by <a href="">MadaMasr,</a> an independent, progressive media platform in Cairo on February 21, 2017.</em></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/fatima-bhutto/cinema-can-be-powerful-and-inspiring-but-it-is-never-innocent">Fatima Bhutto: cinema can be powerful and inspiring, but it is never innocent</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/martin-evans/battle-of-algiers-historical-truth-and-filmic-representation">The Battle of Algiers: historical truth and filmic representation</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Lebanon </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Arab Awakening Arab Awakening Lebanon Culture middle east protest Cinema Rowan El Shimi Fri, 24 Feb 2017 14:07:06 +0000 Rowan El Shimi 109066 at