10 Years since the Arab Spring: Beyond the Monument of History

It is the 10th anniversary of the Arab Spring, and we can’t quite escape the act of remembrance. Yet rather than reenacting facile modes of nostalgia or tragic lamentation, we opt to remember with an eye on the present and the future. We ask how the passing of time changes our understanding of the revolutionary event, whether what happened since in words and deeds amount to an Arab revolutionary tradition, and what sites of micro-politics have emerged after 2011 and reconfigured the meaning of politics in the region. In this dual invocation of the dead as well as the living, we aim to confront old and new questions on history and reckoning with the past, on ideology, organization, and national identity, and on those specific areas of contestation that constitute our everyday politics today and could help us to reimagine certain possible futures.

Pregnant as it were of both exuberant hope and boundless brutality, it’s as though Arab revolutionary time has since locked us into a tired discursive loop on success and failure. This short essays series, which followed a number of conversations among the authors, is a first attempt to break out of the loop. It’s an invitation to reflect on the past as history, challenging in the process scripted revolutionary or post-revolutionary narratives, eluding factional and/or national silos, and foregrounding hitherto unnoticed dynamics, themes, and voices. As platforms produced in great part by the 2011 moment, we are particularly aware and wary of the fatigue and repetitiveness that Arab spring discussions and mentions elicit among our communities of writers and readers. This too is part of the brutal everyday that we experience as we attempt to reflect with the angel of history.