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People power from Liberation Square to Aleppo: a comparative analysis of nonviolent resistance in the Arab Spring




Olson, Philip Robert, author
Cavdar, Gamze, advisor
McIvor, Dave, advisor
Egenhoff, Sven, committee member

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Beginning with Gene Sharpe's seminal work The Politics of Nonviolent Action (19741) strategic nonviolent action has been touted as an alternative to violent insurrection against repressive regimes, and, in its earliest hours, many touted the Arab Spring as a powerful example of nonviolent resistance in the face of longstanding and well-armed bastions of power. However, the epithet "Liberation Square" imprinted on the architectural center of the protests that overthrew Hosni Mubarak has faded, while the architectural centers of Aleppo, Manama, and Misrata no longer exist. However, the Arab Spring should not be forgotten by nonviolent actors. By mapping the methods, both the successes and failures, and the dynamics of resistance as it spread across the region this project forwards three central arguments regarding nonviolent action. First, participants in civil resistance do not maintain uniform agency across cases, and structural conditions play a significant role in determining the success of nonviolent resistance. Second, nonviolence should not be an ultimatum, and integrating violent strategies of resistance can bolster resiliency and strength. Finally, nonviolence is not a panacea, and should be contextualized within the political and economic contexts of resistance.


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civil resistance
Middle East
nonviolent action
Arab Spring


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