Anna Novikov-Commentary on EuroMaidanTahrir: Trajectories of Revolution and Violence in Eastern Europe and the Arab World
This event, organized by the Forum Transnationale Studien together with EUME (Europe in the Middle East- the Middle East in Europe) research program seminar as a host, and the Berlin-Branderburg Ukrainian Initiative, took place on the 9th of December. The program of this evening has been of interest to me for some time, since it looked like a promising combination of scholarly and journalistic discourse, which could potentially bring a stimulating discussion.
First of all, the very idea of bringing into one conceptual framework two geographically remote crises as the conflict in Ukraine and the Arab Spring, sounded for me as a thought-provoking inspiration. Second, the two presentations were made in a bright and clear way, treating questions of violence in both events. The discussions addressed the issue of the age and socio-economic status of the participants versus certain stereotypes (for instance, youth as the main participants in the protests), the questions of center versus periphery, dynamics of the events’ development (for instance, whether they might be regarded as processes of revolutions and later counter revolutions, which are not finished yet) and the role media played during both crises. Prof. Cilja Harders of the FU university (Berlin), whose research focuses on Middle Eastern politics and societies, chaired this discussion.
The first discussant, Dr. Mayssun Succarie, is a lecturer in Middle Eastern Studies at King’s College London. Her paper reflected her research focusing on youth and social movements on the one hand and on the role of political and economic structures in the context of global political economy during the Arab Spring on the other. The second speaker, Nataliya Gumenyuk, a well-known Ukrainian journalist and commentator and also a head of Hromadske.TV, discussed both the Maidan and Donbas and the Arab Spring developments, focusing on their similarities.
During the presentations and the following debates, some points were especially remarkable for me and inspired a further discussion. One of the points was a shared analysis of the post- Maidan and Arab Spring developments. First of all, the first part of the evening’s title “EuroMaidan Tahrir”, which is also the part of Gumenyuk’s book title “Maidan Tahrir. In Search of a Lost Revolution”, sounded for me as an intriguing symbolic unification of the events, taking into account that in both in Ukrainian and in Arabic, “Maidan” has a similar meaning due to the Arabic-Persian sources of the term.
I personally was also very interested to hear a socio-anthropological analysis of the reasons, which brought to the formation of a stereotype concerning youth participation in both cases. It was not entirely clear to me what the definition of “youth” in both presentations was, and hence it could be interesting to check whether this stereotype relates more to the age (teenagers, young adults, 18-25 years old, etc.) or to the socio-economic situation (for instance, students). Another point of interest was the role media played in “visualizing” the events to the broader public, creating a feeling of participation among these who could not directly take part in the protests. Apparently, there is a tight link between the “medialization” and the visualization both of the Arab Revolution and the Maidan-Donbas, which brought these two events into a certain perceptional similarity for an external viewer. Conversely, one of the reasons for the rise of the “youth participation” stereotypes is the cognitive link made between the youth and media (or to be more precise, the increased usage of media by youth in order to spread the news) for the common viewer. However, the discussion pointed on the older group of professionals, who followed the students and, being experienced in team work, organized the resistance networking.
Last but not least, an interesting points which was discussed and which might be more elaborated is the naming of both protests “Maidan Nezalezhnosti” and “Tahrir” after the squares where they took place and therefore their spatial meaning as symbols of political activity. It could be interesting to analyze these events in the global context of the so called “square riots” tradition (dynamics of their development, networking, violence, for instance, The Tiananmen Square protests or the Tompkins Square riots, etc.).
Thus, the evening left not only a feeling of intellectual satisfaction, but what is even more important, an interest in further reflections.