|Lecture by John Chalcraft, 7/4/2011|
Protest, Hegemony, Ordinary People, and Border-Crossing: Towards an Unruly, Post-Colonial History from Below
Lecturer: John Chalcraft (London School of Economics and Political Science)
Date/Time: Thursday, 7/4/2011, 5 – 7pm
Location: Centre for Area Studies | Thomaskirchhof 20, First Floor | 04109 Leipzig
Organisation: Centre for Area Studies (CAS)
Since the ouster of Tunisian dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali on 15 January 2011, a wave of popular, democratic and revolutionary protest has swept the Arab world. Mubarak’s heavily armed dictatorship collapsed after only 18 days of determined popular protest. This methodological paper suggests some ways to approach these dramatic movements and set them in historical context. Some are seeing in these revolutions the moment when the Arab world catches up with the 21st century, and becomes more like ‘us’ in the ‘West’ either through Facebook, educated youth, or democracy. Others have already written off these movements as containing within them a lurking, and fundamentally Other, Islamist threat. This paper rejects both positions as long-familiar and problematic instances of the discourse of the colonial modern. Instead, I argue that these movements are better understood through the more plural lenses of an unruly and border-crossing post-colonial history from below. This approach draws on social theorists and historians such as Antonio Gramsci, Peter Linebaugh, Michael Mann, Marcus Rediker, E.P. Thompson, Charles Tilly, and Raymond Williams in order to get beyond modernism and (neo)Orientalism alike. The paper argues for the utility of linking the analysis of contentious, non-routine, and disruptive politics to hegemony, popular groups, and border-crossing. First, in order to develop the importance of historical context (sometimes lacking in social movement theory), and the importance of struggles for consent, attention can fruitfully be paid to the rise, defence, and defeat of hegemony - understood as the unfinished struggle to marry domination (military, political, economic and ideological) with projects of moral, political and intellectual leadership capable of achieving universality in the social formation as a whole. Second, in order to bring the increasingly marginalized ‘Subaltern’ back in, and capture dynamics slighted in top-down histories of the victors, I suggest that it is vital to pay attention to the ideas and activism of ordinary people who do not occupy positions of social power. And third, to avoid nationalist history and to tackle problems of socioeconomic, discursive, and cultural determinism alike, I argue that it is important to pay attention to how ideas, people and resources cross national and other kinds of borders. I will defend this approach with reference to the historiography of protest in the Middle East, illustrating the argument with historical examples from the eighteenth century to the present.
John Chalcraft graduated with a starred first in history (M.A. Hons) from Gonville and Caius college Cambridge in 1992. He then did post-graduate work at Harvard, Oxford and New York University, from where he received his doctorate with distinction in the modern history of the Middle East in January 2001. He held a Research Fellowship at Caius college (1999-2000) and was a Lecturer in Modern Middle Eastern History in the Department of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at Edinburgh University from 2000-05. He is currently reader in the History and Politics of Empire/ Imperialism in the Department of Government at the LSE. He is interested in the popular history of the Middle East and the global South, migration, uneven capitalism, imperialism, political contention, and counterhegemony.
Source: Dr. John Chalcraft, “People,” London School of Economics: Department of Government, http://www2.lse.ac.uk/government/whosWho/profiles/jtchalcraft@lseacuk/Home.aspx