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Individual Paper: 'It is not all about economic growth': Epistemology of the South and environmental movements in Egypt, Lebanon and Algeria.

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'It is not all about economic growth': Epistemology of the South and environmental movements in Egypt, Lebanon and Algeria.

This study follows the trajectory of environmental movements that arose in Egypt, Algeria and Lebanon particularly in the wake of the Arab spring. These movements include the anti-coal campaign in Egypt, ‘You Stink’ in Lebanon and the anti-fracking movement in Algeria. There are three major observations regarding these movements. First, the consistent pressure of these movements challenged the discourse of the state and its apparatuses whereby the economic growth was conceptualized as a priority. Second, the language of protest led by the masses on the quest for environmental justice is acknowledged by the institutions of modern state (that supposed to ensure democratic values and safeguard citizenship), however this did not result in political and/or institutional changes in all cases (e.g. Egypt). Third, this emphasis on epistemology of the movements in Egypt, Lebanon and Algeria becomes significant to learn how nature-culture are organically linked in the everyday struggles of the masses and how the emergence of a new culture of sustainability in these countries constitute the start of a change in modes of collective public actions. Fourth, these environmental movements- from a political ontological approach- stem from the proposition that many contemporary struggles for the defense of environmental rights are best understood as ontological struggles and as struggles over a world where many words fit, as the Zapatista put it; they aim to foster the pluriverse. In other words, politico-ecological conflicts of these kinds, as it appears, are as much struggles over meaning as they are battle over material practices (Escober, 2010).

I examine how these movements as a form of struggle, are shaping counter discourses with their own terms and line of enquiry as a praxis of the knowledge of the south. Resistance as an agent of political-economic and cultural change and as a way of reconstructing dominant knowledge is the focus of this study especially in the light of increasing prevalence of the contemporary and re-constituted colonialist project of neoliberalism which, like prior colonial impositions, demonstrates little regard for the diversity of knowledges.

Under this premise, the study investigates the following questions:
1. What are the main discourses that were developed by the different movements using the alternative media (e.g. Facebook) in Egypt, Lebanon and Morocco to portray the fossil fuel as socio-ecological problem and what are the discourses of developmental agendas of the nation-state in these countries?
2. Locating social movements at the core of praxis of sociology of knowledge for organizing particular way of scholarship, this study would focus on how collective mobilizations in these global south countries generate new society-state relations and reconstruct our knowledges away from the dominant Western thinking?

Considering social movements are too complex and multifaceted to be adequately grasped by any single method, multiple strategies of data elicitation will be used in order to address such intricacies (Lichterman, 2002; Babbie, 2008). This is a qualitative study combining examining the previous related studies about environmental movements in the Middle East region, field observation and in-depth face-to face and online asynchronous interviews with the member activists in the above-mentioned movements and also concerned scholars, both individual and collective.


Day: 2018-08-23
Start time: 11:30
Duration: 00:15
Room: Nöjesteatern (Theater)
Track: The Pluriverse: Articulating alternatives to development



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