Panel 3D

Citizenship in the Middle East: Dynamics of Exclusion and Inclusion

16.15 – 18.15
Chair: Raymond Hinnebusch, University of St. Andrews

The Political, Politics and Notions of Citizenship in the Islamist Movement

Roel Meijer, Radboud University

In this paper I will discuss the relationship between the political, politics and the concept of citizenship that Islamist thinkers have made from Muhammad Abduh to Jasser Awda. I will argue that the political (the abstract notion what politics is about), politics (daily practice) and citizenship (the right to have rights) are closely related and that Islamist thinkers have had difficulty distinguishing the three because the notion of the political has always been absorbed by religion. In the paper I will use the theories of Claude Lefort, Chantal Mouffe and Sheldon Wolin to give a definition of the political. I will then apply their theories to Islamic political thinkers during the past century. Finally, I will indicate why the concept of citizenship—which has played such an important role during the Arab Uprisings—has been undermined by the Islamist movements on political-philosophical grounds. Finally, I will analyse several new, promising Islamist thinkers who have developed new concepts of the political, politics, and citizenship during the past decade. In contrast to the other contributions to this panel, the paper is based on political philosophy and part of its aim is to demonstrate the benefits that political philosophy can offer Middle Eastern studies. The paper is part of a larger project to show the relevance of citizenship studies to Middle Eastern studies.

Israeli Ethnocracy: Dilemmas of Inclusion and Exclusion in an “Unfinished” State

Nils A. Butenschøn, University of Oslo

Israel is a state-in-the-making, an unfinished state aiming towards the fulfilment of the Zionist idea of a separate state for the Jewish people – however this idea is interpreted in terms of constitutional, demographic and territorial principles. The paper discusses the tension between this unfinished nature, yet actual existence of the State of Israel: A member of the United Nations but without final borders pending the realisation of the projected State of Palestine within territories that Israel today occupy; A ‘Jewish state’, but lacking a constitution that defines its Jewish nature, including its relationship to Judaism and world Jewry; A democratic state, a state for all its citizens, but seeking not to incorporate the Palestinians – the other people that belongs to historic Palestine and that have national claims to it – both those who are citizens of Israel, those in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and the refugees in exile, all together some ten million people.  The paper argues that approaching these different dimensions of the Israeli state formation and the challenges it faces as an ethnocracy is best understood through the lens of citizenship because citizenship gives legal and institutional expressions of how the state seeks to incorporate, regulate and control its constituent demos on the one hand, and mechanisms applied to exclude those who are not considered legitimate members of that demos, on the other.

Migration and Marginality of Citizenship in the in the Arab Gulf Region: Human Security and High Modern Tendencies

James Sater, American University in the United Arab Emirates

The legal and substantive exclusion of populations from full membership in the state and thereby from the rights of citizenship remains one of the most central questions in citizenship studies. Since the end of WWII, many formal restrictions have either disappeared or softened in many of the advanced, industrialized countries, including restrictions that were placed on legal migrants. In contrast, in the oil-rich states of the Gulf exclusion on legal rights remains prevalent. This may be hardly surprising given the fairly recent introduction of large-scale migrant labour as well as the fragility of national identities and borders. This paper will develop the following three factors that relate to the domestic dimension of migration and the exclusion of migrants from legal citizenship. First, the foundation of Gulf political communities has been based on the marginalisation of migrant communities, which has been particularly important due to social and political hierarchies, and ultimately graded citizenship among Gulf nationals themselves. Second, the rentier state’s relative autonomy from societal pressure has allowed Gulf states to pursue what James Scott calls high-modernist ideologies. This means that judicial control mechanisms play no significant role in the policy making process, which inter alia further compounds migrants’ marginalised status. Third, any recent reforms ultimately fail to overcome the technocratic and high-modernist views pursued by states, and may in turn endanger the human security of Gulf migrants and their descendants.

Download Paper (Sater)

Claiming Spaces for Acts of Citizenship: Recent Experiences of Activists in Morocco

Sylvia I. Bergh, Erasmus University Rotterdam

As Engin and Nielsen argue in “Theorizing acts of Citizenship” (in Acts of Citizenship, edited by Engin Isin and Greg M. Nielsen, London: Zed Press, 2008 ) that citizenship is not only constituted by passive and active rights but must be acquired by definite and specific “acts of citizenship.” This contribution will focus on two types of such acts of citizenship: the first type includes those that are produced more or less spontaneously by former members of the 20 February Movement in Morocco. These activists are currently organized in loosely-networked and continuously evolving groups raising awareness about what it means to be a citizen through street theatre, alternative art forms, and reading groups, among others. The second type of acts of citizenship refers mainly to those that are instigated by donor and government organizations, such as social accountability initiatives in the health and education sector (e.g. community score cards) where parents or patients are claiming citizenship rights through more or less pre-determined avenues. Our article will try to compare these two types with regard to how citizenship is understood by the actors concerned, and whether through their acts, they can be said to contest or legitimize the state, or even to be doing both at the same time.

The Bidun Protest Movement as an Act of Citizenship

Claire Beaugrand, Institut français du Proche Orient (Ifpo)

In February 2011, in the wake of other Arab mass protests, the biduns or paperless residents, considered illegal by the state of Kuwait took to the street in the emirate. Breaking with their strategy that hitherto had been non-confrontational and had used patronage links to try to obtain concessions from the state, they experimented with a new and innovative forms of contention in their struggle for recognition and nationality.

Based on my fieldwork data gathered in April 2014, this paper explores the bidun protest and mobilisation movement in the light of critical citizenship studies that analyses struggles for rights and regularisation of undocumented immigrants, clandestine workers, and illegal persons in Western contexts. It focuses on the agency of excluded individuals and groups and their ability to shift legal and political boundaries. Despite the fact that the bidun actions did not lead to the resolution of their cause, the paper investigates the ways the protest movement affected perceptions and norms in Kuwaiti society. It seeks to make a contribution to the scholarship on social movements emanating from non-citizen groups in a non-Western, non-liberal democratic context, where the understanding of being political is itself largely restricted.