Panel 3f. Activism, mobilisation and political engagement in the Middle East

Chair: Filippo Dionigi

Contest and activism in prison and beyond political detention in Palestine
Stéphanie Latte Abdallah, CNRS-IFPO

Starting from militant and activist trajectories and the political modes of contention of prisoners in custody and beyond the walls as well as their claims vis-à-vis the prison administration, I will analyze the effects of prison constraint on political socialization. Dealing with engagement and disengagement processes, I will consider whether and how spending time in jail is framed as a citizenship experience.

Lebanon’s Hezbollah: Socialization Proces in a Militant Islamist Organization
Erminia Chiara Calabrese, University of Tarragona (Spain)

This paper analyzes the different contexts of socialization and interactions to which the individual is confronted and which can be significant elements for engagement in the ranks of Lebanese Hezbollah. Taking inspiration from the interactionist approach that marked most recent French studies in the sociology of commitment and mobilization, this paper takes activists the starting point of the analysis, then up towards studying organizations and macro-political contexts within which they ‘record their trajectories’.

(Dis)engagement and political conviction: compared activist trajectories in the Middle-East
Pénélope Larzillière, IRD-CEPED-Paris

How are political conviction built up and ideologies perceived, assumed, interpreted and experienced by the activists? What do they see in them and to what extent is it possible or not to connect their trajectories of involvement and disinvolvement? Attention will be turned to the links between involvement and political conviction in the Middle East by comparing long-term activist trajectories from various persuasions: islamist, nationalist and leftist. In the activist paths, three kinds of experiences will be specifically focused on: first commitment and affiliation process, career changes and shifts, disengagement. The analysis of these experiences shows the role of political emotions, and furthermore that ideologies may also be lifestyles and are rarely disowned, unlike the organizations that represent them. These connect a commitment to the ongoing need for visions that make sense, that make sense of reality and experience, and thus deeply affect activists. It is thus difficult to disregard the notions of meaning and interpretation to account for the action of these actors, even if the question of ideologies may seem dated, especially with regard to strands of sociology of political commitment that tend to reason only in terms of career, market and social-cause entrepreneurs. However, it should also be taken into account that the activist narratives are here a reconstruction after the fact, recounting an experience interpreted in retrospective, the value of which is as much in the line of reasoning and justifications offered than in the facts related.

« Militant careers» in Tripoli, Lebanon, from the Iranian revolution to Da’esh
Tine Gade, Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages, University of Oslo and SciencesPo Paris

The notion of a “moral career” was first used by Becker in Outsiders to denote how a person learns to become recognised as the performer of a distinct role. Social movement theorists recently taken more interest in activist biographies. The notion of a “militant career” has been used to analyse the causes of commitment and disengagement (Fillieule 2005; Sawicki and Siméant, 2009), and reconversion of resources or networks built during activism (Duclos 2010, see also Bucaille 1998). This paper builds on these studies and investigates the theoretical and empirical reach of the concept, taking the case of Tripoli, Lebanon. Utilizing data obtained from extensive new fieldwork (2008-2015), it analyses the « militant careers » of a dozen urban poor youth, from New Left networks in the 1970s to Khomeinist Islamism in the 1980s. The activists created the Islamic Tawhid movement in 1982, before fighting the Syrian army and its allies in 1985. The battle killed many activists, brought others bars in Syria and others again into exile. The paper shows that while certain Tawhid militants were able to convert militant resources into their civilian, professional lives after the war, others found few work prospects and turned into “street emirs” who worked for the Syrian intelligence. Others again became Salafis during their stay in the Diaspora. What determined the future path of the activists was their educational background, availability of work opportunities, and interaction with educated, middle class multi-sectarian milieux.

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