International Symposium on the Arab Spring in Istanbul, Turkey | May 24, 2012

The events that swept across North Africa and the Middle East since January 2011 have transformed the political map of the region. Jointly termed the "Arab Spring," these popular uprisings have brought down some of the most entrenched and repressive authoritarian regimes of our times. Yet the political future of the Middle East is far from set. While some countries in the region are setting up transitional governments and devising constitutional frameworks for their first democratic elections, others are in the midst of violent protests and fierce repression. The political origins, dynamics, and implications of these momentous events was the focus of an international symposium held on May 24, 2012, in Turkey, which was organized by the CMES at UC Berkeley and sponsored by Istanbul Aydin University.

The symposium brought together experts from the United States, Europe, and the Middle East to discuss the prospect of democratic consolidation in the Arab world. Specifically, some of the questions they addressed included:

•Will the uprisings and protests that have stretched throughout the region lead to the further re-entrenchment of market rule under Islamic and (relatively more) democratic leadership?

•Are there counter-dynamics that could rein in market dynamics and build redistributive economies, or at least stronger welfare states and independent unions?

These issues were discussed in relation to the “Turkish model,” which many in the western media and academia hold up as an exemplary democracy. The participants highlighted certain aspects of the Turkish case that remain under-analyzed in recent debates, ranging from its thoroughly inegalitarian neoliberalism and its frequent deployment of authoritarian techniques and discourses. They also discussed to what degree the ruling party and emergent regime in Turkey are “Islamic,” despite some Arab Islamists’ investment in this belief. The discussion of the Turkish case in its relation to the Arab revolutionary processes also allowed the participants to problematize concepts and categories such as democracy, Islamic state, Islamism, Islamic democracy and to have a fresh debate about the articulations of Islam and neoliberalism.

The video above is a recording of Dr. Laryssa Chomiak, Director of the American Institute for Maghrib Studies (AIMS) Overseas Research Center, Centre d'études maghrébines à Tunis (CEMAT), presenting a paper titled, "Post-Revolutionary Tunisia in the Midst of the Arab Spring: Civic Resistance to Civil Society."

To learn more about the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, visit

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