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Citizenship Lectures Summer 2020: Global Riots

“Riots are coming, they are already here, more are on the way, no one doubts it” (Joshua Clover)

In recent years, we have seen riots all over the world. From “Black Lives Matter” against the racist US American police and state, to the Chilean upheavals against a neo-liberal regime that favours the rich and takes no notice of the needs of its people. From the protests in Iraq against a corrupt government after the invasion of a US led war coalition of Western powers, to the people of Lebanon defending their lives and livelihood against a political system and a political class that has lost all credibility. And, of course, we should not forget the riots and upheavals in the core of global neoliberal capitalism in countries such as France, the UK, Germany, Sweden and so forth.

The lecture series “Global Riots” wants to offer analyses of some of these conflicts and contribute to a more detailed understanding of their causes, developments, actors, mobilisations and aims. It brings together scholars from different disciplinary backgrounds and aims at fostering a dialogue between and amongst researchers, students and the wider public. Given the Covid-19 situation, recorded lectures will be distributed online.

Schluwa Sama (University of Exeter):

“We need a homeland”: A political economy of the most persistent demand of Iraq’s protestors

In Iraq, “we need a homeland” is the most popular and persistent demand by protesters. Since the protests erupted in October 2019, young men and women are reiterating this demand in different ways. Only in February 2020, “Here are your men, oh homeland” and “Here are your women, oh homeland” was shouted throughout protest squares as a response to the recent entreaties by Muqtada al-Sadr, the influential cleric and political leader, that protesters of mixed genders not mingle. These defiant displays are a way of embodying a new type of homeland, radically breaking with the vision of leaders like al-Sadr. It is not only chanted in slogans but also represented in people’s practices in the occupied squares. Thus, in Baghdad’s occupied Tahrir Square, protesters have taken it upon themselves to construct something different, not only installing electricity and internet and organizing cleaning shifts, but also building a vibrant artistic culture through a revolutionary cinema, book tents, and internal discussions about the country’s future. Interrogating this demand, I argue that it expresses a desire for ownership over all aspects of life that includes the simultaneous importance of emotional belonging and the right to decide over one’s country’s resources. Tracing back the demand as an answer to the history of Iraq’s moral and political economy, I emphasize economy as a notion of ‘the everyday’ inclusive of all aspects of life necessary for ‘making a living’.

Author’s note: Schluwa Sama is a PhD student at the University of Exeter. Her ethnographic research explores processes of (de-)valuation of agricultural life in Iraqi Kurdistan through a political-economic lens.

Luis Alberto Cortés Vergara (Universidad de Chile):

It was not 30 pesos, it was 30 years: Causes and consequences of the Chilean social movement

In October 2019, a 30 Chilean pesos raise (app. 0,03 euro) on the public transport fare in Santiago, the Capital, sparked mass evasions by school students as a form of protest. As the government responded with violent repression by armored riot police, the protests progressively escalated into the paralysis of the whole country, with barricades in every street. When after two days Martial Law was declared, the Chilean population went in masse to the streets to defy it, something which was unthinkable ten or twenty years ago. Soon, the protest against the transport fare evolved into a critique against a neoliberal model that made life progressively more precarious. Thus, pensions, healthcare, social security, enviroment, property, everything is now called in question. The transport fare was just the tip of the iceberg. The purpose of this exposition is first to understand the causes of this social explosion, and then to explain how politics have changed in Chile after October 2019 and what are the possibilities that were opened by this.

Author’s note: Luis Alberto Cortés Vergara is a Chilean Lawyer from Universidad de Chile, currently living in Berlin. He is a member of the political organization Solidaridad Organización Comunista Libertaria in Chile, and also works in the Labor and trade union research group Centro de Investigación Político Social del Trabajo (CIPSTRA). He is currently participating in the Chilean assembly in Berlin, Cabildo Berlín, and in the Human Rights Comittee of the international organization of Chilean abroad, Chile Despertó Internacional.

Renata Campos Motta (FU Berlin):

Violent matters: Feminist solidarities through the politics of the body and nature

In Brazil, in a context in which progressive forces in the social and political left face enormous challenges in overcoming their cleavages to build unity in struggle, feminist movements have showed their mobilizing potential precisely by articulating difference as a strength. Beyond “women’s” struggles, recent mass mobilizations such as EleNão# (2018) and Marcha das Margaridas (2019) defended democracy, universal social policies and alternative rural development models. There is a gap in feminist theory and activism between gendered classed demands, on the one hand, and sexual, reproductive and the politics of the body, on the other. I argue in this paper that the existential threats at stake in the entanglement between the global, capitalist and ecological crises and the national political scenario in Brazil provides a ground for solidarity building across through the politics of the body and struggles over nature. The most strident and open violence in Brazil affects women’s bodies, LGBTQI+ bodies, black bodies, and those of activists for land rights and socio-environmental rights, including indigenous, afro-descendants and peasant communities that challenge the advancement of agribusiness and extractive industries. By looking at those groups that lie at the intersections most affected by violence and death, it is possible to make a new diagnostic of the current crisis as incorporating a war-like expansion in the agrarian frontiers of capitalist accumulation and colonial-gendered-cultural wars on bodies, making body and nature violent matters, but also sites in which creative politics of solidarities most flourish.

Author’s note: Renata Campos Motta is Assistant Professor in Sociology at the Institute for Latin American Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin and Project Leader of the Research Group Food for Justice: Power, Politics and Inequalities in a Bioeconomy (2019-2023), funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). She authored the book Social Mobilization, Global Capitalism and Struggles over Food (2016), and co-edited Global Entangled Inequalities: Conceptual Debates and Evidence from Latin America (2017).

Naoual Belakhdar ( Freie Universität Berlin):

Algeria in revolution: From everyday resistance to mass protest

Since February 2019, Algeria is witnessing an unprecedent popular upheaval across the whole country that started with the opposition to a fifth mandate of ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and rapidly evolved into demands for a radical but peaceful overthrow of the postcolonial political system. Although this came as a surprise for several observers, not least because no mass protest took place in Algeria during the Arab revolutions of 2011, this lecture will deconstruct the idea of spontaneity and challenge assumptions of the rentier-state approach. It will highlight how this upheaval, claiming freedom, social justice and popular sovereignty, reconnects with a radical political imaginary nurtured not least by the war of Independence and practices of popular resistance and contentious politics performed by ordinary citizens and marginalized actors in the last decades that contributed to renegotiate and transform state-society relations.

Author’s note: Naoual Belakhdar is a political scientist affiliated to the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Politics (Freie Universität Berlin). Her research and teaching interests focus on social movements and statehood in the post-colonial Maghreb and Mashreq, with a particular focus on political participation, protest and resistance movements as well as on collective memory, film and politics. In her dissertation, she works on the transformation of state-society relations in post-civil-war Algeria in light of social protests. Her latest publications include: When unemployment meets environment. The case of the anti-fracking coalition in Ouargla, in: Mediterranean Politics, Volume 24, 2019 - Issue 4: Allying beyond Social Divides: Coalitions and Contentious Politics in the Middle East and North Africa; «L’éveil du Sud» ou quand la contestation vient de la marge. Une analyse du mouvement des chômeurs algériens, in: Politique africaine 2015/1 (N° 137), and Political Participation Beyond the Polling Station in Algeria. Insights from Tizi-Ouzou, in: Bouziane, Malika; Harders, Cilja; Hoffmann, Anja (eds.) 2013: Local Politics and Contemporary Transformation in the Arab World - Governance Beyond the Center. Series: Governance and Limited Statehood. Palgrave Macmillan.

Zafer Yılmaz (Humboldt Universität zu Berlin):

Challenging Turkey's regime transformation: Moments of insurgent citizenship from Gezi Uprising to June 23 local election

Turkey has been experiencing a comprehensive regime transformation, which has had repercussions in the organization of state power and state-society relations since the failed coup in 2016. Even if the rise of authoritarianism has been well-discussed in the recently blossoming literature on authoritarianism, the analysis of the challenges to the rising regime has been very much neglected. This presentation aims to shed light on the moments of “insurgent citizenship”, which have been oriented to defy the imposition of the new regime and authoritarian politics. In that context, it will give the genealogy of civic popular mobilization since 2013 Gezi Uprising to 23 June 2019 Istanbul municipal elections with a discussion on Turkey’s changing culture of political protest.

Author’s note: Zafer Yılmaz is an Einstein Fellow in Comparative Political Sciences and Political Systems of Eastern Europe, Department of Social Sciences at Humboldt University in Berlin. He works currently on the rise of authoritarianism, transformation of the rule of law and citizenship in Turkey. His articles on family policies and new Islamic charity mentality; populism, authoritarianism, and the AKP’s political ideology; the Gezi Uprising, and the culture of political protest, and the constitution of legal emergency power in Turkey are published in various academic journals and books.