Sunday, October 9, 2011

Researching the Arab Spring

Laila kindly provided a translation of my latest Akhbar article

Researching the Arab Spring
Rami Zurayk
The Arab Spring could become an academic subject taught at universities all over the world. It is a very exciting and vital subject: for a century or so, the West has insisted that this nation did not exist, and here it is, full of energy again. The people who have been demeaned for so long by Arab 

and Western Orientalists have broken the yoke of tyranny, overthrown some rulers and are threatening others. A whole nation is crying out to the world: we have what you do not. We have dignity and courage and we reject your mandate over our thoughts, culture and life. 
The Arab Spring is a major turning point for Arab society. It remains so despite all the failures, which we hope are temporary, despite the violent repression and regional and international conspiracies and despite the dispersal of some opposition movements. 
Of course, Western academics have seized the opportunity to engage in simplistic analysis. This is sometimes the result of their attempts to improve their own tedious positions in universities and research centers that consider themselves to be the height of achievement and the reference point for all thought.
Thus the Arab Spring is the latest fashion in research for those who have never even visited the Arab world. There are many examples of this. Recently, some researchers at Harvard published an in depth study, full of data and figures. Its conclusion was that the Arabs had risen because of the inflation in the price of foodstuffs. The paper was published immediately. It was not even subject to academic reviews, because, according to the publisher, the topic is so urgent and pertinent. 
But what is this urgency they speak of? Is it the necessity to portray the Arab uprisings as revolutions caused by hunger? Or is it to rewrite the history of these events to suit the Western historical narrative? Of course, the problem is not just that these studies are published, but that they are absorbed and regurgitated by Arab academics. 
This is why it is so important for us now, the Arab academics and activists, to organise ourselves into research groups in order to document our own uprisings and write our own history. 

No comments: