Contentious Processes Not Protest Outcomes: Sit-Ins, Marches, and Demonstrations in the Middle East and North Africa

By Dina Bishara
Submitted to Session P4813 (After the Spring: Contentious Politics and Political Processes beyond 2011, 2017 Annual Meeting
Pol Science
Colonialism;
LCD Projector without Audio;
How do different types of protest tactics affect future dynamics of contention in authoritarian regimes? A growing literature on contentious politics in authoritarian regimes has explored how citizens express their discontent against authoritarian rule. Although these questions are crucial to understanding protest politics, they obscure important protest processes and variation between different forms of protest.

Utilizing a systematic, in-depth analysis of protest repertoires in Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco (all of which have a long history of protest under authoritarian rule), I hypothesize that demonstrations, extended sit-ins and marches have different logics and different implications for future dynamics of contention. Marches, for instance, disrupt traffic and involve collective movement across large urban areas, while extended sit-ins involve capturing symbolic public spaces for extended periods of time. The extended nature of sit-ins, for instance, deepens ties between movement participants and allows for the creation of strong collective identities, while marches serve to extend protest networks by drawing in new participants. Finally, regular demonstrations, such as those organized by the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, are more likely to draw on an already existing network of supporters, thereby serve as occasions for highlighting mobilization capacities. The paper is based on an ethnographic analysis of protest processes, including participant observation of different forms of protest. The paper draws on a variety of sources, including in-depth interviews with protest participants, memoirs, and protest chants. Finally, the paper analyzes protest dynamics both before after the Arab uprisings of 2010/2011.