World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010

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Identity, Representation and Mobilization (433) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: FRI 23, 11.30 am-1.30 pm

· NOT_DEFINED institution: Society of Arab & Islamic Studies (UK)

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Fernando Carvajal

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: This pre-organized panel aims to discuss the various vehicles of identity, political mobilization and reform in three vital countries of the Middle East; Egypt, the UAE and Turkey. Our presentations will address the vehicles in use by Kurdish women in the process constructing their nationalist identity and new spaces in the political arena; the impact of policies on existing media-based public diplomacy efforts as the target population shifts and abandons the traditional target; and the impact of political reform by autocratic rulers who deprive representation in the absence of taxation to new generations willing to take part in the decision making process. The aim of this panel is to engage theoretical approaches and practices contributing to the construction of identity and mobilization of people into the political processes. The case of Kurdish women in Turkey presents the work of activists constructing national identity as well as spaces for women as Mayors and Ministers of Parliament and the significance within the national discourse. In the case of Radio Sawa of Egypt, the author analysis the impact from replacing the Voice of America and the shift in target audience, from a more general target that included the elites and decision makers to a narrower focus on the 30 something generation of Egypt. The author identifies the reason for the shift in focus on America’s preoccupation with public polls rating the degree of anti-American sentiments in the region. The case of the UAE presents the reforms engaged by an autocratic state facing a population no longer satisfied with the absence of taxation and representation. While this reform has not yet granted equal representation to Emiratis and merely created an “Electrocracy”, the author argues it is a move forward wherein the impact of reform remains to be seen.

Chair: Luciano Zaccara (University of Exeter & Universidad Autónoma de Madrid)

Paper presenter: Salima Tasdemir (Ph.D Candidate in Kurdish Studies -University of Exeter), “The Political Activism of Kurdish Women in Turkey”
In this study, which mainly focuses on the Kurdish women political activism in Turkey, I try to examine the current state of gender practice of the Kurds who are accepted as the “largest stateless nation of the world” by most authors and actors. In particular, the political activism of Kurdish women has been extensively observed since 1990s in Turkey. Kurdish women movement has mainly exposed itself through publications such as diverse journals: Roza, Jin û Jiyan, Jûjin, Özgür Kadının Sesi and İştar; and organizations as Gökkuşağı Kadın Derneği (Gökkuşağı Women’s Organization) and Selis Kadın Derneği (Selis Women’s Organization) and Özgür Demokratik Kadın Hareketi Platformu (the Platform of Free, Democratic Women Movement). I argue in this way that women both have announced their voices in the Kurdish community and have participated in Kurdish nationalist movement. Besides Kurdish women’s journals and organizations, which enable them to trace the Kurdish women movement through its historical and conceptual entirety, political parties’ women branches and women’s groups which are other examples of women’s organizations being active in the political arena are approached as main research areas. In addition, in order to reveal the current political activism of Kurdish women I concentrate on these women’s units and significant women political actors, especially woman MPs and mayors in DTP, which is the official Kurdish political establishment. Concerning all these physical indicators of political activism of Kurdish women, this study will investigate the rise of women’s activism from a range of historical and theoretical perspectives and will explore its implications to present feminist standing of women within politics, particularly their political engagement within the political party. Its aim is to analyse arguments, motives and discourses behind women’s political activism, not only in historical account, but also, and more crucially, as important parts in the construction of identity and nationhood through nationalist discourse. Furthermore, in order to find out more about the experience of Kurdish women political actors and examine their political participation processes, in-depth interviews and participant observation research methods are conducted during the research.

Paper presenter: Dr. Fran Hassencahl (Department of Communication and Theatre Arts. Old Dominion University), “Radio Sawa: Public Diplomacy or Feeding the Fantasy of the “Arab Street”
In March 2002, Radio Sawa (colloquial Arabic meaning “together”) replaced the Voice of America Arabic Service (1942-1945, 1950-2002) as the radio broadcast component of America’s public diplomacy effort in the Middle East. Many of the veteran journalists and staff of the VOA and senior staff in the public diplomacy community did not support the changes in format and audience for VOA Arabic Service. They argued that the Broadcasting Board of Governors’ decision to focus on the under 30 age group abandoned the elites, the opinion and decision makers, who were long time listeners of the VOA (Dizard, 2004; Rugh, 2006; Lord, 2006; Muravchik, 2003). The BBG’s rationale was that 60 percent of the population in the Middle East are under the age of 30 and do not listen to the VOA Arabic Service. The BBG also argued that based on polls conducted in the Middle East by Zogby International and the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, which show wide disapproval of U.S. foreign policy that it was necessary to reach young audiences (Charney & Yakatan, 2005). Data shows that this decision also coincides with fears linked to the events of 9/11 and political speculation about the “Arab Street.” Decision makers believed that successful formats used in United States markets would transfer to what they saw as a homogeneous Arab market. Consequently, the BBG closed down the VOA Arabic Service and changed the station’s format from news and cultural programming to a top 40’s music format with current popular music in Arabic and English and minimal news.
The author will 1) chronicle the events leading up to the establishment of Radio Sawa, 2) examine the political and programming considerations for this modified public diplomacy effort, and 3) evaluate the claims made by the supporters and opponents of Radio Sawa as to whether the programs are reaching their intended audience. Sources for analysis include the annual reports and press releases from the BBG, Studies done by the Government Accounting Office and the Department of Defense and testimony before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Publications from The American University in Cairo Center for Electronic Journalism also were consulted.

Paper presenter: Marta Saldaña (MA in Gulf Studies. University of Exeter/ PhD Candidate UAM), “Electocratic rule in the United Arab Emirates”
The autocratic political system of the UAE has endured for more than 30 years under the “no representation without taxation” paradigm of the rentier state theory, and therefore with neither serious opposition nor movements asking for representation. However political reforms have been introduced in the UAE throughout the past decade, as has happened elsewhere in the Gulf. Elections were held in December 2006 to choose half of the members of the Federal National Council (a consultative chamber), but although this process itself has had little effect on the Emirati political system, it represents an important step in the political history of the UAE. What has induced the Emirati rulers to introduce political reforms? Are these reforms part of a political liberalizing process? What is the stance of the Emirati population towards the evolution of their political system? How can the UAE’s reforms be considered in comparison to those conducted in the other Gulf States? This paper suggests that, the UAE political system has entered an evolutionary phase which, although it cannot be expected to attain democratic conditions in the short term, represents a fundamental shift in the politics of the country from autocratic rule to “electocratic” rule. Moreover, it proposes that one of the main factors putting pressure on the rulers of the UAE has been, and still is, the existence of a sector of Emirati society willing to participate in the decision-making process, to enhance the relationship between the citizens and the state, and thus the political liberalisation process.

Paper presenter: Amaia Goenaga (PhD Candidate - Department of Arab and Islamic Studies (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid), “Power sharing in Lebanon’s II Republic. The roll of the Banking Sector”
At the moment, Lebanese banking sector is probably the most prominent economic sector in the country. Actually it has always been. However, the way the sector recovered after a crisis in the sector at the end of the civil war (1989-1990) and its performance trough the II Republic turn out striking. In the last 20 years the sector has grown up a lot in spite of the most adverse socio-political and economical context, even in spite of the international financial crisis. The golden age of the banking sector is directly related to the strengthen relationship maintained by the banks and the national monetary and financial authorities since the end of the war. It is an unprecedented relationship in this country, where the precepts of “laissez-faire” are deeply rooted. After the conflict, government became the first source of profits for the banks, thanks to its macroeconomic policy and to the abuse of public debt issues at really high interest rates. Consequently it is worth to wonder why this change in direction has happened in the government’s policy. As we will try to show, this is related to the changes in elite composition and power redistribution after the end of the war.