Call for Papers
Creative Dissent: Culture and Politics of Transformation in the Arab World
A Special Issue for the International Journal of Cultural Studies
Co-edited by Eid Mohamed, Waleed F. Mahdi, and Hamid Dabashi
Objective and Significance
Ever since the 2011 youth embrace of the public arena demanding regime change in a fervor once described as the “Arab Spring,” there has grown a sense of polarization in countries like Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Bahrain, and Yemen around certain issues of local, regional, and global relevance. Echoes of this polarization reverberated around the politics of Islam with its various sectarian and tribal articulations. The resurgence of counter-revolutionary forces further complicated the public search for more stable and inclusive governing models. At the core of these dynamic interchanges among the various power players in the aforementioned countries is the role played by culture in circulating political rhetoric to advance clashing geo-political encounters, and resurrect public demands for autonomy and agency from pro-western military institutions as well as elite establishments. The accelerating changes in the Arab social media landscape over the last decade have further provided Arabs with the opportunity to produce, circulate, and consume cultural products in the service of expressing and disseminating political opinions amidst growing signs of chaos and uncertainty.
This special issue seeks to examine the relationship between cultural production and changing socio-politics across the Arab world. The purpose of this issue is to conceptualize new cultural modes of expression, if any, and their function in the process of social change. It intends to address their role and capture the complexity of communication tools utilized to facilitate, if not hinder, political conversations. Works analyzing the cultural factor in shaping and echoing politics are limited. There is a growing need for case studies that advance scholarly analyses of the intricate relationship between Arab culture and politics.
The issue highlights the importance of creativity in both informing and echoing the public search for autonomy, agency, and self-representation. Its significance lies in its contribution to the existing scholarly conversations around the Arab revolutionary sphere. It recognizes the multiple constructions and interpretations of the term “Arab Spring,” which invoke complex and yet fraught connotations tied to geographical, historical and political realities and perspectives. The issue therefore pays close attention to localized revolutionary dynamics and modes of collective memory and action.
Please, keep in mind that contributions to themed issues undergo the same level of rigor in blind reviewing that all submissions do. We will also need to use the existing submission system of the journal for all editor, author and reviewer correspondence so that we may keep track of manuscript processing. The system is based on the relatively common ScholarOne/Manuscript Central platform.
Please, be advised that the total time from initial solicitation of manuscripts to final approval of revised versions and then publication can take up to 18 months, depending on the journal publishing queue and themed issues or sections to which it is already committed.
We welcome analyses of Arabic primary texts emerging since 2011. Works produced prior to that are also welcome so long as they are directly linked to the unfolding political unrest. The list of primary source materials is not conclusive. It includes but is not limited to novel, poetry, drama, painting, music, film, television, caricature, gaming, comic strip, graffiti, and street performance. Papers examining under-studied modes of creative and artistic mobilization such as al-Fan Midan (Art is Square), zawmel (Yemeni tribal chanting), and khutab (religious sermons) will receive special consideration. This issue adopts and welcomes a multi-method approach, including narrative interviews, participant observations, archival work and content analysis of selected primary sources.
The following is a list of suggested topics for analysis. Your article could:
- offer an ethnographic account of how citizens and activists have used cultural works to express dissent and mobilize for political change
- capture the discursive underpinnings of “change” and the potential spaces that local cultures forge to challenge abstractions and historicity of western constructions of democracy
- explore the cultural production of stateless communities and minorities in the Arab world to underline citizenship narratives beyond the paradigm of nationalism that often sets the parameters for exclusion and inclusion in Arab social realities
- examine new modes of literary and artistic expressions that articulate identity and belonging
- illustrate the convergence and divergence of post-colonial narratives (e.g., state nationalism, Arabism, and Islamism) in shaping the rhetoric of anti-establishment resistance and in giving the impetus to localized forms of social cohesions and collective movements around issues of cultural identity, political sovereignty, and imagined sense of community
- demonstrate how artists reflect the role of sectarian and tribal identities in challenging authority and proposing a post-revolutionary social space in what might otherwise be considered failing states
- showcase how cultural products expose the damaging effects of capitalism in producing conditions of disparity and social immobility in Arab spring countries and its link to calls for regime change
- reveal the role of cultural producers in complicating the construction of gender in post-revolutionary spaces, particularly in refugee communities
- reflect on the role of culture in engendering questions around representation, craze for power, state monopoly of violence, and the role of civil society
- trace the long-term impact of cultural and literary production beyond the “surprise effect” of the Arab Spring
- identify the emancipatory role of culture alongside other traditional and non-traditional means of communication in yielding a strong impact in mobilizing the public
Proposals should include the author's name and affiliation, title, an abstract of 250-300 words, and 3 to 5 keywords, and should be sent to the e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org no later than October 15, 2017. Selected submissions will be due November 15, 2017 and will be submitted directly to the submission site for the International Journal of Cultural Studies, where they will undergo peer review following their usual procedures. Please, note that invitation to submit a full article does not therefore guarantee acceptance into the special issue. The special issue will be published in the end of 2018.
- Abstract Submission Deadline: October 15, 2017
- Proposal Selection Notification: November 15, 2017
- Initial Article Submission Deadline: March 15, 2018
 This special issue is part of a larger research project led by Dr. Eid Mohamed and funded by Qatar National Research Fund, NPRP program titled “Transcultural Identities: Solidaristic Action and Contemporary Arab Social Movements.”
Eid Mohamed, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of American Studies and Comparative Literature
School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Doha Institute for Graduate Studies
Office: AB #067
Tel: +974 4035 6917