Untangling Popular Power: Rhetoric, Faith, and Social Order in the Middle East

“Untangling Popular Power: Rhetoric, Faith, and Social Order in the Middle East”
March 2nd – 3rd, 2019 at the Columbia Global Center in Amman

For Information: https://ircpl.columbia.edu/2018/09/07/call-for-papers-untangling-popular-power-rhetoric-faith-and-social-order-in-the-middle-east-amman-jordan/

The Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life in collaboration with the Columbia Global Centers | Amman and co-sponsored by our partners in Europe, are organizing a conference which will consider various forms of popular power in the Middle East and North Africa by examining how populism is defined, the role of modern populist movements like anti-colonial struggles or popular anti-regime uprisings, how the use of religious identity has shaped these movements, and the relationship between populist ambitions and various media platforms, from print to broadcast to digital.

This forum aims to explore the extent to which recently emerging populisms in the contemporary Middle East are illustrative of a new historical trend, and/or the extent to which they are a continuation of the diverse strategies for the mobilization of peoples that were deployed during international anti-colonial projects and civil rights movements. It will examine the intersection of populist and religious discourses and the relationship of secular and religious activists to political and social power, as well as the implications of the different strains of emerging populism on globalization, liberal institutions, human rights, and the media.

Language and Meaning: Conceptualizing Popular Politics in the Middle East

Meanings and connotations of the term “populism” in the various contexts and languages of the Middle East and North Africa
Ways in which populist movements envision community and authenticity and target particular social groups (e.g. religious communities, ethnic groups, and economic classes)
Discourses of nationalism, civil rights, equality, religion, secularism, and methods used to promote cleavages of identity in the pursuit of populist objectives

The Past in the Present: Historical Perspectives on Populism

Contemporary populist movements in the region as a new phenomenon
Populist movements of the past
Differences between MENA and European/American populist ideologies

Mobilizing the Faithful: The Role of Religion and Religious Identity in Popular Politics

Role of religious leaders and religious communities
Use of religion and religious identity by populist leaders and movements to pursue national, economic, and social objectives
Politicization of religious tropes through populist lenses activating previously dormant populations of political actors

Media(ted) Populism

Contribution of traditional media and social media to contentious politics and social movements, in the past and today
Populist rhetoric employed across media platforms – newspapers, television, the web, and others
Religious dimensions in media environments
Tension between populist figures and media and the question of “illegitimate” or “fake” media.

Bread, Dignity, and Social Justice: The Economics of Populism

Divergent framings of welfare and who is mobilized around such claims
Role of global and local financial crises in rise of populist movements
Negotiation of Islamist economic ideas and global political economy
Economic precariousness and inaccessibility of resources correlated with changing views of what constitutes legitimate use of authority in MENA

Deadline for abstract: Monday, October 22, 2018
Deadline for final paper submission: Tuesday, January 15, 2019


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