Donatella della Porta
Department of Politics and Social Sciences
European University Institute
Year of completion 2012
language of dissertation English
|Areas of Research|
- Social Classes and Social Movements
- Political Sociology
|In the last stages of authoring this dissertation, December 2010-February 2011, an unexpected series of revolutionary events swept through the Middle East and North African states catching both the affected authoritarian regimes and observers by surprise. A rapid diffusion of explosive collective expressions of grievances rippled through the masses of urban centers in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, introducing a new era in the historical trajectory of these countries and the region as a whole. By all accounts, the Islamist social movement organizations and political parties in these and some neighboring states have been the primary political winners in the power vacuum left by the crumbling repressive regimes. As the post-revolutionary parliamentary and presidential elections unfold, and the normalization of political plurality develops, it can be expected that in each of the states the formerly marginalized Islamists will dominate the reconstruction of socio-political institutions. But what do these Islamist organizations stand for? Who are the Islamist activists? And what has been the primary force behind their popular support?
Previous studies of Islamism and its activists often focused on the operational and discursive relationship between religion and politics propagated by these groups. Some even looked at the structural reasons behind the Islamists’ sustained mobilization and organizational development. Still others simply described Islamism as a social tide or a form of the region’s collective cultural expression of its inability to reform itself. Many of these studies have displaced some of the central questions regarding the sustained mobilization of Islamism across the region and beyond. This study represents an alternative point of departure and approach to understanding the successes of what is now one of the most thriving Islamist social movement organizations – namely the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.
This study combines disciplinary contributions from a variety of scholars, but primarily those within the sociology of social movements, social psychology, and repression studies. I believe that such an interdisciplinary platform offers a solid ground from which one can explore the effects of state repression on the development of Islamist dissent. My primary focus is directed toward explaining individual motivations behind this form of social movement activism. More specifically, the study attends to an underdeveloped understanding of authoritarian states’ impact on religiously inspired social movement organization. As such, the study presents an inclusive analysis of macro- , meso-, and micro-dynamics of contention.