Reading list

The Arab Uprisings Five Years On: A Reading List

Alex Doherty27 January 2016

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Five years ago the Middle East and North Africa was electrified by unprecedented popular protests that heralded the start of the Arab Spring. Beginning in Tunisia popular movements swept regimes from power in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya and threatened to overthrow ruling elites across the region. Tragically, the Arab Spring has since become mired in counterrevolution and civil war with the extraordinary violence of the war in Syria, the rise of ISIS, the escalating refugee crisis, and the establishment of a new dictatorship in Egypt emblematic of the profound challenges facing the people of the region. As tumultuous events continue to unfold we present Verso's reading list of key titles addressing the developing situation in the Middle East.

Syrian Notebooks: Inside the Homs Uprising
by Jonathan Littell

An extraordinary firsthand account of the Syrian conflict by the internationally acclaimed author of The Kindly Ones. In 2012, Jonathan Littell traveled to the historic Syrian city of Homs. Smuggled into the city by the Free Syrian Army, for three weeks he observed as civilian neighborhoods were bombed and innocent civilians slaughtered. His reportage speaks directly of the horrors that continue today in the ongoing civil war.

The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution
by Patrick Cockburn

The essential “on the ground” report on the fastest-growing new threat in the Middle East from the Winner of the 2014 Foreign Affairs Journalist of the Year Award In The Rise of Islamic State, Patrick Cockburn describes the conflicts behind a dramatic unraveling of US foreign policy. He shows how the West created the conditions for ISIS’s explosive success by stoking the war in Syria. The West—the US and NATO in particular—underestimated the militants’ potential until it was too late and failed to act against jihadi sponsors in Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Pakistan.

Syria Burning: A Short History of a Catastrophe
by Charles Glass
What are the origins of the Syrian crisis, and why did no one do anything to stop it? In his forthcoming book Glass combines reportage, analysis and history to provide an accessible overview of the origins and permutations defining the conflict, situating it clearly in the overall crisis of the region. His voice is elegant and concise, humane and richly-informed.

Muslims are Coming!: Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror 
by Arun Kundnani

The new front in the War on Terror is the “homegrown enemy” - domestic terrorists who have become the focus of sprawling counterterrorism structures of policing and surveillance in the United States and across Europe. Kundnani’s blistering work denounces the dominant approach as built upon racist assumptions, fundamentally flawed, and ultimately counter-productive. With the figure of “the extremist” often conjured to fan fears of “the migrant”, The Muslims are Coming! is a reminder that the struggles of refugees and migrants do not always stop once they cross the border.

Separate and Dominate: Feminism and Racism after the War on Terror 
by Christine Delphy

With Europe’s humanitarian civil society apparently mobilising in solidarity with refugees and migrants, Delphy’s manifesto is a timely reminder of the complex relationship between liberal “humanitarianism” and racial supremacism. Calling for a true humanitarianism that sacrifices no-one at the expense of others, Delphy exposes the hypocrisy of many euro-centric calls to save the “Other”.

The Revenge of History: The Battle for the 21st Century
by Seumas Milne

In this coruscating account of the first decade of the twenty-first century, Seumas Milne presents a powerful indictment of the United States, a global and corporate empire in decline. Milne also examines the causes of the Arab Spring and the Great Recession, reveals the policy of humanitarian military intervention to be a failed land grab, explains the dynamo behind the roaring Chinese economy and discovers new models of society flourishing in Latin America. Brilliant, bold and always incisive, The Revenge of History is essential reading for anyone wanting to understand what has gone wrong.

The Journey to Tahrir: Revolution, Protest, and Social Change in Egypt
ed. by Jeannie Sowers and Chris Toensing

The account of how it all began, this collection of reports from the region details the causes that underpinned the revolution before it amassed in scale. Starting with the eighteen days of protest in the lead up to Mubarak’s resignation, it is a first hand account of the collective dissent of workers, anti-war activists and campaigners for social change.

Soldiers, Spies and Statesmen: Egypt's Road to Revolt
by Hazem Kandil

When the military turned against Mubarak, so too did the revolt, from outbursts of protest to full on revolution. Hazem Kandil challenges the siding of the military with the people, instead documenting the power struggle between the three components of Egypt’s authoritarian regime: the military, the security services, and the political apparatus. Analysing what it means for Egypt to transition from military to police state, Kandil looks toward future revolution.

Why it’s STILL Kicking Off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions
by Paul Mason

Paul Mason’s tempered account of global revolution, from Athens to Cairo. A blend of historical insight and first person reportage, Mason goes in search of the changes in society, of technology and ways of activism that led so many disenfranchised people onto the streets demanding change. 

The Year of Dreaming Dangerously
by Slavoj Žižek

Žižek's take on tumultuous 2011, the year showed us glimpses of distorted—sometimes even perverted—fragments of a utopian future lying dormant in the present. The year of the Arab Spring, Žižek's writing epitomises his own unique take on uprising. His engaging observations into the future of the Arab world are original and unique.

Carbon Democracy
by Timothy Mitchell

Conflict in the Middle East is never far removed from conflicts and disputes over oil. As with the expolitation of the fuel itself, the politics of these oil-based democracies have proved unsustainable. This book not only theorises the future of fuel, but democracy itself.

For Another Europe: A Class Analysis of European Economic Integration 
by Guglielmo Carchedi

Guglielmo Carchedi’s original analysis of the European Union unearths the internal contradictions at the heart of many of the crises now threatening its very existence – including the issue of migration. The author argues that unless another Europe is built – specifically, one that foregrounds class solidarity and abandons imperialist relations with the Third World – such problems will persist. Recommended for anyone seeking to understand how mass migration to Fortress Europe is driven by the policies of the European Union itself.

The Rebirth of History: Times of Riots and Uprisings
by Alain Badiou

Following the Arab Spring, an analysis of how riots move from spontaneous uprisings to historical events with dramatic consequences. Also includes a fascinating discussion of the relationship of localized struggles to the wider discourse of democracy and representation.

Being Arab
by Samir Kassir

A thoughtful analysis of the contemporary Arab identity by the journalist and historian Samir Kassir, who was assassinated by a car bomb in Beirut in 2005. Being Arab calls for a position which rejects both Western intervention in the Middle-East and Islamism.  

Filed under: arab-spring, egypt, immigration-and-asylum, reading-list