Gender and Civil Society

An Interview with Suad Joseph

by Joe Stork
published in MER183

Suad Joseph, an editor of this magazine, teaches anthropology at the University of California-Davis and is a founder of the Association of Middle East Women’s Studies and the Middle East Research Group in Anthropology. She has published extensively on sectarianism, gender and the family, and constructions of the self and state in Lebanon. Joe Stork spoke with her in early May.

What questions does the idea of civil society raise concerning gender?

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The Democratization Industry and the Limits of the New Intervention

by Robert Vitalis
published in MER187

In the wake of the Gulf war, the question of democracy in the Middle East has finally caught up with Washington, but in ways that reinforce dominant strains of Cold War thought and action. Witness the regular depiction of Islam and Islamist movements in terms once reserved for communism, reflecting an artful mix of representation and prescription meant to discourage meddling with the authoritarian status quo. Within the community of Middle East scholars and academic experts, though, one finds people less ready to write off the region as an “exception” to global trends. To varying degrees, this current believes that US policy can strengthen a second wave of liberalism in the Middle East.

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Weighing Morocco's New Constitution

by Paul Silverstein | published July 5, 2011

2011 has been a year of unprecedented political tumult in Morocco. As neighboring North African regimes collapsed under the weight of popular pressure, demonstrators have convened in Moroccan cities as well, naming their uprising after the day of their largest initial gathering, February 20, and calling for greater democracy.

Skirting Democracy

Lebanon's 1996 Elections and Beyond

by Paul Salem
published in MER203

The practice of selecting political representatives by voting is not new to Lebanon. The parliamentary framework of modern electoral life in Lebanon was established in the 1926 constitution. Elections were held regularly during the French Mandate period, except for interruptions during World War II. Throughout the Mandate period, two thirds of the parliament was elected on the basis of universal male suffrage (women first voted in the 1950s); the remaining one third was appointed by the French authorities. The practice of appointment ended at independence in 1943.

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From People to Citizens in Tunisia

by Nadia Marzouki
published in MER259

While Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation will undoubtedly remain the iconic image of the 2011 Tunisian revolution, another set of pictures has also stuck in the minds of Tunisians. On the evening of January 14, despite an army curfew, a man staggered across Avenue Habib Bourguiba, shouting, “Ben Ali fled -- the Tunisian people is free! The Tunisian people will not die! The Tunisian people is sacred!”

Mission: Democracy

by Sheila Carapico
published in MER209

Incumbent national leaders invite foreign election monitors only when it is in their interest to do so. Rarely is significant financial assistance “conditional” on holding elections, although it does improve a regime’s image abroad to do so. For governments being observed, the trick is to orchestrate the process enough to win, but not enough to arouse observers’ suspicions.

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The Malaise of Turkish Democracy

by Aslı Aydıntaşbaş
published in MER209

In his first televised interview in late 1996, just months after taking office, an avuncular-looking Necmettin Erbakan seemed unsurprised at a question about his taste in clothing. “Mr. Prime Minister, we hear that you favor ties by the Italian designer Versace,” said commentator Mehmet Ali Birand. “What is it about Versace that you like?” His half-smile unfading, Turkey’s first-ever Islamist prime minister answered that “this particular Western designer seems to have borrowed from Islamic aesthetics and Oriental patterns.”

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A Paradox of Democracy?

Islamist Participation in Elections

by Jillian Schwedler
published in MER209

On April 27, 1997, Muhammad Zabara stood outside a polling station in the old city of Sanaa. In a neatly pressed suit and tie, his short hair and mustache freshly trimmed, he greeted voters who had turned out for Yemen’s second post-unification parliamentary elections. A team of Western election monitors approached him and asked whether he was a candidate. In English, he answered that he was the district’s candidate from the Yemeni Reform Group, a conservative party with an Islamist agenda. “But Ahmad Raqihi is the Islamist candidate for this district,” said one of the monitors, referring to Zabara’s main rival, who dons a turban and beard. “You don’t even look like an Islamist.” [1]

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