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Workshop "Political Participation, Emotion and Affect in the Context of Socio-Political Transformations"

The C01 project organized a workshop under the title “Political Participation, Emotion and Affect in the Context of Socio-political Transformations” on the 3rd of December 2015. The workshop aimed at introducing sub-project to fellow scholars who work on the MENA region, social movements as well as affect and emotions. It aimed at presenting initial ideas and openly discuss feedback to the proposed research questions. The discussants as well as the participants were professors and researchers interested in the study of politics in the region as well as affect theory. The main goals of the workshop was to create a network of scholars interested in these themes to enhance cooperation and knowledge sharing and also reflect upon the role of affect and emotions with respect to collective political actions in the region.

The workshop started with a group presentation of the project objectives, questions and potential contributions. The discussion was already heated as a reaction to the proposed ideas. The participants raised productive points about the definition and the centrality of the “Square Moment,” the importance of exploring the aftermath of the revolution and the gaps in literature and they had all sorts of questions about the project’s methodologies. However, as organizers and presenters we preferred to give the floor to the presenters and discussants to share their views on related topics.

The workshop consisted of three roundtables on relevant themes. The first roundtable was entitled “Affect, Emotions and Political Transformations.” It was centered mostly on Egypt and the ‘Arab uprisings.’ Samuli Schielke (Research Fellow at the Zentrum Moderner Orient, ZMO) gave an exciting talk entitled “There will be Blood: The Ethics and Affect of Violence in Counter-revolutionary Egypt” he spoke about the ethics and affect of violence in counter-revolutionary Egypt especially post 2013. The second talk was given by Walid El Houri who is an Arab scholar and a former EUME Fellow (2014-15). His interesting paper on “On Productive Failure: Political Transformation and the Endurance of Politics” through which he argues that looking at the ‘Arab’ revolutions through the prism of failure is both hastily and counter-productive sparked a lot of debate. As most participants have been linked or invested scholarly and otherwise to the revolutions they all had strong opinions about this, some went as far as to argue that accepting those failures is the only way to progress.

The second roundtable entitled “Visual Analysis of Affect and Emotions in Social Movements” inspired a different forms of debate, one that is more centered on visual anthropology and geographically more concerned with the situations in Turkey. Banu Karaca who is a Fellow of Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices at the Forum Transregionale Studien in Berlin presented an intervention entitled “Visuality and the Politics of the Sayable.” Through showing a series of photos both from Tahrir and Taksim protests and providing comments on them as a visual anthropologist, she provided great insights on how to read images, what do images say and their relation to political protests. This was followed by the last roundtable that focused on ‘Studying political affect’ in which Erdem Evren, a post-doctoral fellow at the ZMO, discussed various theoretical and methodological observations inspired by his scholarly work as well as his own participation in the protest movement in Gezi and closing remarks by the project team.

Overall, the discussions signaled a real interest in studying affect and emotions in political science especially when looking at the protest movements in Egypt and Turkey as well as the fact that there are contributions to build on but still so much more to work on.