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Revolutionary social contracts and long-term legacies: comparing former and...

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King's College London

Strand

Nash Lecture Theatre (K2.31)

London, England WC2R 2LS

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Speaker: Dr Alice Wilson, University of Sussex

Speaker biography: Alice Wilson is a lecturer in social anthropology at the University of Sussex, UK. Her research interests span political and economic anthropology, with a particular interest in radical projects for social change, such as revolutions and liberation movements. Her geographical focus is on the Middle East and North Africa. Alice’s recent book, Sovereignty in exile: a Saharan liberation movement governs (University of Pennsylvania Press 2016), charts experiments in sovereignty and revolutionary state power in the case of the liberation movement from the disputed territory of Western Sahara in north-west Africa. Sovereignty in Exile won Honorable Mention in the 2017 book award of the Middle East Section of the American Anthropological Association. In her current research, Alice examines legacies of the former liberation movement in Dhufar, southern Oman.

Abstract: Revolutions attempt to forge new social, political and economic relations including new social contracts. Whilst many studies examine the outcomes of such projects in the years immediately after revolutionaries capture state power, we know less about the lasting legacies of revolutionary social contracts in other circumstances, such as defeated revolutions and revolutions which only partially capture state power. This paper examines how revolutionary social contracts create long-term legacies in challenging political conditions of military defeat and protracted exile. Former, now defeated, revolutionaries in Dhufar, southern Oman, and current exiled revolutionaries from Western Sahara, each sought in early activism to promote new social contracts based on social egalitarianism and weakened tribal authority. Ethnographic fieldwork with both groups reveals long-term legacies of these revolutionary social contracts. In Dhufar, some defeated veterans and family members use kinship practices and everyday socialising to reproduce revolutionary values of social egalitarianism; these findings suggest how there can be an “afterlife” of revolution even after military defeat. For exiled Sahrawi revolutionaries, over time tribes have re-emerged in often contested roles; while Sahrawis’ revolutionary social contract has modified over time to allow greater public recognition for tribes, a revolutionary moral contract has nevertheless proved enduring. Both cases underscore the long-term legacies in diverse political settings of revolutionary social contracts - effects yet to be seen for the more recent revolutions of the Arab Spring.

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King's College London

Strand

Nash Lecture Theatre (K2.31)

London, England WC2R 2LS

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