EUME Berliner Seminar
Mi 13 Okt 2021 | 17:00–18:30

Revolution and the Boundaries of Political Change: The Lebanon Uprising of 2019 and the Politics of Counter-Revolution

Jeffrey G. Karam (Lebanese American University / EUME Fellow of the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung 2021-22), Chair: Walid El Houri (openDemocracy / EUME Fellow 2013/14)

In cooperation with AL.Berlin as part of the AL.Festival.2021

Part of the 'Wall' Around the Lebanese Parliament.

This seminar explores how many regional and global powers still guard the sectarian-based political system in Lebanon against revolutionary movements that have tried to reform or overhaul the status-quo. Focusing on the eruption of the massive social uprising on 17 October 2019, the seminar draws on a selection of new primary records and secondary accounts to examine how several foreign states acted as counter-revolutionary forces to maintain the status-quo after the beginning of the revolutionary situation. The state’s coercive institutions and counter-revolutionary action and rhetoric have so far enabled the regime to undercut calls for change and prevent significant sociopolitical reforms.

However, an examination of counter-revolutionary narratives and actions during revolutionary situations must move beyond local considerations and instead consider the confluence between international, regional, and domestic forces. By complicating the binary of revolutionary and counter-revolutionary situations and viewing that the lifecycles of revolutionary processes waver between euphoria and disenchantment, the seminar provides a new perspective on counter-revolution that underscores the fluidity of different forms of coercion and violence. While foreign powers have different security and ideological motives for acting as counter-revolutionary forces, they converged on supporting the existing political class and regime and by extension, limited the possibilities of change that inspired thousands of people to partake in the revolutionary uprising. Reflecting on the Lebanon Revolutionary Uprising of 2019 suggests fresh insights on the stability of consociational systems in post-war states, especially when revolutionary situations will continue to develop against corrupt and authoritarian regimes in the Middle East and elsewhere that are mostly guarded by foreign states. This seminar is based on a chapter in a forthcoming book entitled, The Lebanon Uprising of 2019: Voices from the Revolution (London and New York: I.B. Tauris and Bloomsbury, 2022), that Karam is co-editing.

Jeffrey G. Karam is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the Lebanese American University and a non-resident research associate at Harvard University’s Middle East Initiative. Karam is currently a visiting research fellow with the Global Scholarly Dialogue Programme of the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, a EUME fellow at the Forum Transregionale Studien, and a research affiliate at the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Politics and the Otto-Suhr Institute of Political Sciences at the Freie Universität in Berlin. He received his MA in Politics from the American University of Beirut and his PhD in Politics from Brandeis University. He is the recipient of the Christopher Andrew-Michael Handel Prize for his article “Missing Revolution: The American Intelligence Failure in Iraq, 1958,” and the Hussein Oueini Memorial Award. He has held postdoctoral fellowships and visiting professorships at Harvard University and Boston University.  Karam is the editor of The Middle East in 1958: Reimagining a Revolutionary Year (London and New York: I.B. Tauris and Bloomsbury, 2020) and is currently finishing his first book on American intelligence and foreign policy in the Middle East during revolutionary times and political change. His research has been published in academic and public outlets, including Intelligence and National Security, the Arab Studies Journal, The Washington Post, H-Diplo/ISSF, the Daily Star Lebanon, Megaphone, Jadaliyya, TRAFO-Blog for Transregional Research, among others. Karam is also co-editing a book entitled The Lebanon Uprising of 2019: Voices from the Revolution, which I.B. Tauris and Bloomsbury will publish in 2022. He tweets @JGKaram.

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