Artists and the Arab Uprisings

Artists and the Arab Uprisings

Artists and the Arab Uprisings

Artists and the Arab Uprisings

Excerpt

The dramatic revolts that began to spread across the Arab region in 2011 magnified the shortcomings in Arab governance that regional analysts have identified for some time. Underlying many of the political and economic challenges facing Arab society is a cultural contest among government authorities, extremist movements, and reformist voices. In this dynamic, reformists are squeezed between the bounds of acceptable discourse set by rulers who continue to fear freedom of expression and conservative religious groups that fear the liberalization of social values. Arab artists and writers could play a critical role in this contest by helping to shape public debate in ways that promote tolerance and nonviolence. Certainly, greater freedom of expression across the region could also empower extremist voices that reject alternative viewpoints. But opening up space for greater artistic freedom can also allow voices that support pluralism and democratic reform to reach broader audiences than is currently the case, leveling the playing field in countries undergoing fundamental political transitions or those still under authoritarian rule.

The Arab Spring has presented an array of opportunities for progress toward more freedom and democratic reform across the region, but it has also created a daunting number of challenges. New governments struggle to maintain stability and legitimacy, and authoritarian leaders continue to find ways to maintain their hold on power. It is thus not surprising that the term Arab uprisings has now replaced Arab Spring as the dominant characterization of the dramatic developments across the Arab world since 2011. In this report, we similarly use the term . . .

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