Imagining Democracy: Arab Spring, Asian Visions and Western Lessons

November 28, 2012 - November 29, 2012
University of Groningen


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The recent Arab revolts brought about a period of dramatic political transformation across the Middle East and North Africa. It resulted in some (supposedly stable) dictatorial regimes crumbling in the face of popular protests, whilst other regimes desperately hang onto power through promises of democratic reforms. The choices and dilemmas of rapid democratic change have underlined the urgency to revisit our understandings of democracy, its relations to the socio-economic order of societies, and the implications for contemporary international affairs. The Arab Spring does not only pose challenges to the existing political and economic order in the region and the world, but also raises serious questions about how we imagine democracy. For the last two decades, many Western scholars have adhered to a solely liberal capitalist image of democracy, and in the West, this model of democracy (and its promotion) seems to have become an end in itself. Yet, this Western approach to democracy leaves some fundamental problems unresolved, like for example tensions regarding the nature of representation, the boundary problem as well as the potential tyranny of the majority – to name but a few. Furthermore, it is not at all clear that liberal democracy can live up to the claims made on its behalf, or that it can and should be exported to other parts of the world. This makes it all the more urgent to look at alternative conceptions and imaginations of democracy.

For this reason, this conference is looking towards the Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) region as well as towards Asian experiences of democracy. We wish to explore the parallels and differences between these alternative models of governance, including issues such as: the complex relation between collective/cultural/religious rights versus individualist rights, the difficult relation between the market and governance, as well as the different forms of authoritarianism and democratic governance. 

Conference Registration Fee:

75€ (academics and others in full-time employment), 50€ (students). The registration fee covers lunch, tea/coffee and conference meals.


We are unable to cover the cost of transport or accommodation. However, we might be able to assist participants in securing accommodation at reasonable rates near the conference venue.

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November 28, 2012, 3:00pm CET

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