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Talking Anarchism and the Arab Uprisings with Mohammed Bamyeh

Anarchist Movement

Spontaneity, largely horizontal organization, and a suspicion toward explicit political leadership have all been signature components of what's referred to as the Arab Spring. This has been the case since the outbreak of the Tunisian revolution – regardless of the regimes that have resulted from the power vacuums left in their wake.

Talking Anarchism and the Arab Uprisings with Mohammed Bamyeh

Joshua Stephens
Toward Freedom
26 February 2013

Spontaneity, largely horizontal organization, and a suspicion toward explicit political leadership have all been signature components of what's referred to as the Arab Spring. This has been the case since the outbreak of the Tunisian revolution – regardless of the regimes that have resulted from the power vacuums left in their wake. Yet very little of the particularities or the historical forces driving these uprisings captured the imagination of or spoke to left anti-authoritarians in the west, until the appearance of a western-style black bloc in Cairo on the two year anniversary of the Egyptian revolution. That contradiction, and a sudden gaze cast –particularly on Egypt – pose rather unsettling questions about representation, and a slouch toward Orientalism.

The romantic accounts of Arab struggle constructed in the US (most recently, in an “open letter” to the Black Bloc, from Crimethinc), commit a signature sin of omission. Namely, the Arabs present in these accounts (published largely for an English-speaking audience) don't speak, and are not heard. The features we're treated to are filtered through a process of selection in which Arabs did not participate. Consequently, what these accounts convey –well-meaning, or no –has more to do with what their authors see of themselves in their subject matter, and less to do with anything happening on the ground in Arab struggles.

Mohammed Bamyeh is a sociologist of social movements at the University of Pittsburgh, who has written critically about the intersection of anarchism and the dynamics of the Arab uprisings. I encountered him through an article published on the website Jadaliyya several years ago, and sought him out on the topic of anarchism in the Arab world. This conversation resulted.

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Talking Anarchism and the Arab Uprisings with Mohammed Bamyeh | 1 comments | Create New Account
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Talking Anarchism and the Arab Uprisings with Mohammed Bamyeh
Authored by: Admin on Friday, March 01 2013 @ 12:45 AM CST

Stephens has long been a hard line critic of the black bloc tactic and CrimethInc, so it's not surprising here to see him trying to establish some kind of fresh authenticity for those stances, in this case, talking to an acdemic expert of Arab social movements.

The fact is that U.S. anarchists have neither glamourized the Egyptian black bloc movement, nor are they newcomers to following Arab horizontal movements. There has been intense interest in these movements amongst U.S. anarchists for the past year or more, if not further back. I suspect that many of us were a bit surprised that some Egyptian activists attached the black bloc label to their activities, but anybody with Internet access can find plenty of information about the tactic and its history.

Chuck0