Congrès Mondial des Études sur le Moyen-Orient et l'Afrique du Nord

Barcelone du 19 au 24 Juillet 2010

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HIDDEN GEOGRAPHIES: INFORMAL POWERS IN THE GREATER MIDDLE EAST - 4/4: Resistance, Cooptation, Centralisation: The non-Arab Middle East (100) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED institution: Centre for Middle East and North African Studies, Macquarie University, Sydney (Australia)

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Gennaro Gervasio

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: Scholarly debates on polities and societies in the Greater Middle East have focused mainly, if not exclusively, on the palais du pouvoir, the officially sanctioned loci of power. Much less attention has been devoted to the exploration of the so-called ‘hidden geographies’ of power that is political dynamics occurring outside or beyond institutional fora. By observing less frequented spaces of power, co-option, and negotiation, this interdisciplinary series of panels provides a new insight in the study of the intersection between policy-making and un-official political space in the Greater Middle East. Academic and non-academic observers have often portrayed the old picture of politics in the Greater Middle East as a small area reserved to local authoritarian rulers. This series of panel builds upon prior debates, to ultimately argue that hidden power plays a crucial role in regional political dynamics, both in support of official power and, less frequently, in opposition to it. Paper presenters will unveil and discuss three distinct yet not unrelated typologies of relationships between official and informal power in the region. To begin, tribal, religious and military powers ‘which have seldom received official sanction’ have offered indispensable political support to ruling elites.
Secondly, we have detected the emergence of new forms of informal powers, particularly in ‘post-populist’ States where regime stability is no longer the direct outcome of military coercion and large-scale political cooptation. In these cases, the ‘new asabiyyat’ ‘extensive networks of local patronage and clientele’ supported ruling elites during protracted crises of legitimacy through extensive electoral support, extended in exchange of informal recognition of actual localised powers.
Finally, these panels will recognise the emergence of a new dialectic between formal and informal powers in the Greater Middle East, namely one that probes the role of the ‘power of civil society’ as an alternative to authoritarian governance through the region. If, on the one hand, civil societies and formal opposition parties can be seen as challengers to established regimes, recent scholarship is arguing that it is the mere existence of these organizations that strengthens the regimes, as it offers them a much desired democratic façade. This new debate is a further demonstration of how a scientific investigation of the hidden geographies of power, based on extensive fieldwork and on collection of fresh data, is timely and topical.

Panel IV: Resistance, Cooptation, Centralisation: The non-Arab Middle East

Whilst the first three panels were almost exclusively focused on the Arab World, the final panel of series will concentrate on Turkey, Iran and Central Asia. In these very diverse contexts, panellists will explore the relations between central and local powers, granting special attention to elite attempts to coopt informal powers and, perhaps most significantly, on the ability of civil society and new elites to organise an active Resistance to the ruling powers.
Here, the spotlight is on neo-feudal politics, with particular attention to patterns of co-optation networks and to the making of resistance discourses in the non-Arab Middle East.

Chair: Gennaro Gervasio, Centre for Middle East and North African Studies, Macquarie University, Sydney

Paper presenter: Gokhan Bacik (Zirve University, Gaziantep), Accommodating Informal Institutions in Turkish politics: the case of Proxy Leadership
This paper examines an established informal institution in Turkish politics, the emanetçilik, which translates as ‘proxy leadership’. The emanetçi/proxy is the person who represents a political actor banished from public life and deprived of political rights. All aspects of this institution are entirely informal. The paper is focused on the observation of the different ways in which specific informal dynamics might affect the behaviours of relevant actors in the Turkish political landscape. Attention will be also centred on the contextualisation of the emanetçilik, more specifically on the dynamics through which the bureaucratic-authoritarian system might affect the rise of informal institutions. Once the actors’ purposes and the general political structure are identified, the emanetçilik emerges as the best-fit category for accommodating informal institutions. After presenting the operational logic of proxy leadership, the paper concludes with explaining the binding political character of such informal mechanism.

Paper presenter:Michelangelo Guida (Fatih University, Istanbul), Feudal Control of Politics in peripheral Turkey
This paper aims to understand the mechanisms through which the patronage networks of tribal leaders in South-Eastern Turkey and particularly in the province of ‘anl’urfa’ achieved control over local populations and the public sphere, through the mobilisation of large numbers of votes. In general terms, the power of the ‘chieftains’ seems to be deriving from a mix of coercion, well rooted values of respect and tribal loyalty, and strong ties with the central authority. Even if this system often results in the imposition of unequal social relations, it appears to be widely accepted by the broader society through a validation process instigated by its democratic connotation. In this sense, with transformations in the demographic, social, economic and political spheres, tribal identities did not disappear but evolved into a functional network of patronage. Understanding patronage and its influence on political mobilisation may lead to a more informed understanding of political practices in Turkey, and to a specific assessment of the influence of informal politics upon electoral behaviours.

Paper presenter: Arshin Adib-Moghaddam (SOAS, London), Power and Resistance in Iran
Power can never be monopolised entirely by one social institution, not even the state. Power circulates, provokes resistance and changes hands in accordance with the dominant political culture which is continuously under pressure to change in accordance with the demands of ‘power brokers’. This paper attempts to conceptualise, empirically and theoretically, the dialectic between power and resistance through the analysis of state-society relations in contemporary Iran with a particular emphasis on the historical making of Iran’s oppositional political culture. Where does the power of the seemingly ‘powerless’ in Iran come from? In order to address this question, the paper moves in between and beyond the discursive making of politics in Iran and the historical contexts that have produced the diffusion of power in the country.

Paper presenter: Luca Anceschi (La Trobe University, Melbourne), Patterns of Elite Centralisation in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan
In political systems where incumbent regimes hold monopolistic control over relevant political space, the significance of informal power(s) vis-à-vis policy-making can be fully appreciated by observing the processes of elite centralisation. In the cases of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, localised tribal identities and wider ethnic divisions represented a crucial force to be reckoned with even by the authoritarian regimes headed by N. Nazarbaev and G. Berdymuhammedov. To what extent had ethnic and tribal/clanic identities been integrated in the elite centralisations processes established by the two regimes since 1992? This paper aims to answer this question by examining the recruitment policies at regional level implemented by the post-Soviet leaderships of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. This comparative study will identify common/diverging patterns of elite centralisation in the two Central Asian states, to ultimately unveil the dynamics through which alliances with local sources of power contributed to enhance the stability of the central regimes.