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Winter 2019 Publication


Martyrdom, Myth, and Resonant Symbols: Contesting and Creating National Identity in Revolutionary Egypt

Jeron Dastrup


At the core of the Arab Uprisings that shook not only the Middle East, but the world, were the omnipresent Martyrs. The figure of the Martyr, invested with the ideals of a movement, led countless protesters into the streets of Cairo in unexpected and overwhelming mass politics of protest. The cultural phenomenon of the ‘Martyr’, though initially appearing to be another manifestation of an old, regional trope, was appropriated in fascinating ways throughout the uprisings to serve opposing political and social agendas. The current work seeks to understand the development of the symbol of the Martyr within its cultural and historical context, while providing a theoretical framework for understanding why some symbols resonate with the public and others do not. I find meaningful differences between language usage surrounding martyrdom both between different cultural contexts and over time within the same contexts. I argue that Martyrdom is resonant because of its appropriation of existing symbolic networks, ability to leverage demands, and application as an empty signifier.

Less Territory, More Terror: The Evolution of Brutality in Islamic State Propaganda

EJ Morin


IS rapidly garnered global attention and intensified its media wing following Al-Baghdadi’s declaration of the Caliphate in 2014. IS propaganda’s grotesqueness, as seen in itssleekly produced execution videos and sensationally violent Western-centric magazines, Dabiq and Rumiyah, simultaneously attracted followers and horrified the world. Since 2014, IS expanded its territorial presence and, with these gains, IS propaganda has evolved, including its use of brutality. I attempt to answer why IS propaganda—specifically its emphasis on brutality— has varied by analyzing the relation between major territorial gains and losses of IS and level of brutality in Dabiq, Rumiyah, and propaganda videos between 2014-2018. Through my analysis of Dabiq, Rumiyah, IS propaganda videos and comparisons with contemporary territorial changes, I posit and demonstrate that IS propaganda is less dependent on brutality when IS territory is increasing and stable and therefore more brutal when IS shrinks and loses swaths of key territory.


Katie Munk


Societal expectations of male and female behavior surrounding aggression and violence dictate each gender’s norms of anger expression. These social expectations may or may not extend to the political sphere as well. Specifically in the contentious politics of revolutions, are the revolutionary activities that women engage in more or less violent than men’s? Does this change whether women are participants or leaders in the revolution? This study argues there is a difference between the way that men and women approach revolutionary tactics as participants and leaders.Through an experiment testing female and male revolutionary activity and strategy as well as a case study on the Arab Uprising of 2011 and the Muslim Sisterhood in Egypt, findings suggest that it is the framing of gendered behavior in a revolution affects how men and women act as both participants and leaders in revolutions which leads to the difference in their revolutionary behavior.


Kelsey Rasband


In 2008, the Women Stats Office created a map that portrays required codes of dress for women in the Islamic world. Many Islamic states have undergone several political and social changes over the last decade; thus, these countries have experienced both positive and negative shifts in dress code freedoms. What caused positive and negative shifts in dress code freedoms in this region and how do these changes affect women’s rights in general? Research suggests that revolutions, the rise of extremism and Islamism, governments with women empowerment agendas, and activism and civil society might explain these shifts. Evidence from Bangladesh, Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia indicate that revolutions and the rise of extremism and Islamism have individual effects on some cases; but, the last two variables explain change across all cases. Evidence from these cases suggest that when government and civil society take initiatives and work in tandem, there is a positive change in dress code laws and overall freedom for women.

Grassroot initiatives can help the government realize that empowering women will not threaten their power, but will help the state progress economically and socially. When people from all facets of society are working toward this common goal, changes will be more long-lasting and sustainable. One of the first steps towards women empowerment is giving women freedom of dress. If women are able to choose for themselves what to wear in public spaces, they will be more confident and enabled, so they will be more likely to push for and be given additional freedoms. Therefore, dress code freedoms is a mechanism that allows women to progress and close the gender equality gap.



Naomi Mortenson


Eight years after NATO’s intervention in Libya, the region has yet to stabilize amidst civil war and regional conflict. After a review of NATO operations during this period, the evidence implicates the use of the Right To Protect principle as a pretext for regime change during the Arab Spring. The Western media reports of the Libyan crisis under Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 enabled NATO to the narrative of genocide that R2P seeks to protect civilians against. The result of the intervention includes violent religious extremism and clashing tribal identities which in turn accelerated further destabilization in the region. This paper examines how NATO was able to frame their intervention as a model usage of the R2P rather than a pretext for regime change. Their employment of R2P yielded the same large-scale mortality rates and regional upheaval that intervention was claimed to prevent.

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