Date of Award

2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Communication

First Advisor

Marwan M. Kraidy

Abstract

This dissertation explores how history has been communicated during the 2011 Arab uprisings and their aftermath (2011-2015). It is a study about the struggle for finding a historically-grounded revolutionary narrative for an assumed Arab body politic that is torn apart by multiple political forces. I analyze popular communicative practices that invoke history and argue that they have played a crucial role in propagating a narrative that portrayed the uprisings as a collective Arab revolution and awakening. The strategic claim that protestors were making history, I suggest, paved the way for expressing hopes about the future through invoking past history. From 2011 to 2015 in the Arab world, contentious debates about politics were often expressed through a language and a symbolism about history. These controversies were projected towards specific symbols and tropes, which evoked condensed cultural meanings, and which became subsequently used to communicate political aspirations and to assert power in the present and onto the future. In this dissertation, I analyze four case-studies that demonstrate the centrality of collective memory in articulations of identity and politics in the contemporary Arab world.

Through a historically-cognizant approach, I suggest that many of the political controversies in the period under study in the Arab world represent mnemonic battles about the past and the future, which echo a political repertoire from the era of the Arab Nahda (awakening), the cultural and political movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when ideas about modernity and nationalism were first theorized and popularized in the Arab region. I contend that since the Nahda, a desire to make a new future history has been contrasted with a forked past history, one to be discarded as deviant, and another to be resurrected as originary. This conceptualization of history has dominated modern political and cultural expressions of collective aspirations in the Arab world. My dissertation explores how communicative practices during the 2011 uprisings and their aftermath echoed and provided new iterations of this conception of history and how that exploded in battles, literally and metaphorically.

Through a historically-cognizant approach, I suggest that many of the political controversies in the period under study in the Arab world represent mnemonic battles about the past and the future, which echo a political repertoire from the era of the Arab Nahda (awakening), the cultural and political movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when ideas about modernity and nationalism were first theorized and popularized in the Arab region. I contend that since the Nahda, a desire to make a new future history has been contrasted with a forked past history, one to be discarded as deviant, and another to be resurrected as originary. This conceptualization of history has dominated modern political and cultural expressions of collective aspirations in the Arab world. My dissertation explores how communicative practices during the 2011 uprisings and their aftermath echoed and provided new iterations of this conception of history and how that exploded in battles, literally and metaphorically.

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