1f. The Struggle between Liberation and Authoritarianism in the Maghreb is real.

Chair: George Joffé, University of Cambridge

Elite Configuration and Regime Change in North Africa: The Tunisian and Egyptian Cases
Ian Kelly, Dublin City University

The first decade of the twenty-first century saw scholars studying the causes, processes and outcomes of authoritarian persistence in the Middle East and North Africa. The emergent literature on authorisation resilience saw scholars proffer a range of explanations for how the region’s incumbent autocracies reconfigured authoritarian rule in order to manage and contain the region’s political surest. The advent of the 2011 uprisings, and the subsequent change that swept the region, led many scholars to question the literature’s assumptions and focus their analysis on newly emergent actors and forms of mobilisation to explain this wave of change. This paper argues to the contrary that it was the actions and interests of regime elites that contributed to regime change where it occurred in the region. Through an analysis of the elite configuration of the Ben Ali and Mubarak regimes, this paper will argue that it was the realisation or denial of elite interests that contributed to explaining the occurrence of regime change.

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How the Mudawwana modernized patriarchy in Morocco
Dr. Katja Zvan Elliott, Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco

Morocco reformed its ossified Personal Status Code amidst much fanfare in 2004. Ten years on, the women’s rights debate, oftentimes linked to the debate about the Moroccan identity and its core values, continues to be hotly debated in public. Many academics, women’s rights activists, and lay observers cite corruption of judges and women’s and men’s ignorance of the law, aggravated by the overall high illiteracy rates that the country has been recording since its independence, as the most salient reasons for the rather sluggish start and underwhelming impact of the law on the empowerment of women. Based on extensive ethnographic research, I suggest that such a reductionist view of the situation, exonerates drafters of the law and makhzen (Moroccan regime) and rather places the blame for the lack of implementation on women themselves. What is missing in most accounts evaluating the progress towards greater gender equality that the Mudawwana was supposed to set in motion is the interaction between the law and people. In this paper I deconstruct my argument that the Mudawwana is in fact fully implemented by looking at the following three issues: 1) men’s and women’s understanding (and tricking) of the reformed law, showing that people know and understand the consequences of its general provisions; 2) judges’ and public notaries’ (‘adoul) working with the Mudawwana as well as with the international human rights conventions that the country has ratified (e.g. CEDAW); and 3) women’s access to justice, or rather lack thereof. Looking at these three issues is critical if we want to understand increasing numbers of underage marriages in both rural and urban areas, the worrying extent of gender-based violence, and the country’s poor human development performance. Rather than praising the progress that Morocco has achieved, I contend that the reform of the Family Code helped the authoritarian state with modernizing and re-institutionalizing patriarchy. Modernized patriarchy has given women a palette of choices (getting married with or without the legal guardian – wali, not consenting to a polygynous marriage, etc.), but left out building a strong and supportive infrastructure which would enable women to fully exercise their freedom to choose, but it has also managed to further disenfranchise men in the process of heightened and official promotion of women’s rights.

Liberation through Social Justice: Remembering the Future in Algeria
Edward McAllister, University of Oxford

The Algerian war of liberation was one of the most emblematic conflicts of the twentieth century. As the only Arab and African country to defeat a colonial power through armed struggle, Algeria’s independence electrified the entire world. In the 1960s and 1970s, Algeria became the model for other developing countries, embodying the idea that colonized nations could meet the world on their own terms and build a brighter future without owing anything to anyone. Algeria’s drive toward development used the socialist definition of democracy as the equal distribution of wealth, in which political legitimacy was judged in terms of progress toward social justice. With exponentially rising living standards in the 1970s, Algeria aimed to become a modern, egalitarian society that would morally surpass the developed capitalist nations across the Mediterranean. This paper draws on a year of ethnographic fieldwork in Algiers exploring today’s ambivalent relationship with this period. Memories of liberation articulate an overwhelming rejection of authoritarianism and an absolute refusal to renounce the utopian principles of radical equality and the transformation of daily life. Nostalgia translates the breakdown of the imaginary of time as progress and the state’s retreat from transformative politics, as well as the experience of civil war in the 1990s. Memories of unreached horizons also define a set of principles – social justice, solidarity and political integrity – mapping aspirations for the future, demonstrating that the egalitarian claims of postcolonial nationalism are still the yardstick by which the present is judged.

Protests under Occupation: The Spring inside Western Sahara
Irene Fernández-Molina, College of Europe – Natolin Campus

The emergence and empowerment of Sahrawi civil protests and pro-independence activism inside the Western Sahara territory under Moroccan occupation have to be seen in the context of varying sets of opportunity structures which this peripheral movement has actively seized in the past two decades by symbiotically combining domestic nonviolent resistance and international ‘diplomatic’ activities. Different forms of recognition received from the Moroccan state, the Polisario Front and the international community have been crucial in this process, with the last representing the most significant achievement of the movement. The Arab Spring has been a particularly fruitful window of opportunity in this regard. Building on comparatively rich mobilization structures at local, inter-Sahrawi, Moroccan and international level, Sahrawis have successfully been able to frame the local Gdeim Izik protest in a favourable universalistic paradigm which has enhanced their international standing, while opportunities have broadened relatively also at Moroccan state level.

Plus ça change? Observing the dynamics of Morocco’s “Arab Spring” in the High Atlas
Sylvia I. Bergh and Daniele Rossi Doria – presented by Daniele Rossi Doria, freelance researcher

This contribution focuses on the ‘Arab Spring’ in Morocco and on the interactions between the mainly urban-based activists that made up the 20th February Movement (F20M), and the population in rural areas. Based on six weeks of fieldwork between November 2013 and March 2014, mostly in the areas in and near Marrakech, we find that while the urban F20M events stimulated and inspired protests in rural areas, in practice there were only sporadic contacts based on the activists’ personal feelings of belonging rather than their organizational membership. This is mainly due to discursive disconnects between the center and periphery. As for the outcomes, in particular the new Constitution, many respondents believe that nothing has changed so far.

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