Amongst the various demands of the thousands of people who took to the streets in West Asia and North Africa since late 2010, one common theme has been an end of arbitrary police violence and corruption. Throughout the uprisings and in an attempt to contain the growing insecurity, people started policing in the absence of police. Prominent examples are the liğān šaᶜbiya, the popular committees, in Egypt and in a different shape and outreach in Syria or in Yemen. Yet even before the uprisings, non-state actors have policed territory in spaces of limited statehood, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, or the People’s Protection Units in Syrian Kurdistan.
To this regard, the findings in a recent survey on popular security perception in Yemen (Soudias & Transfeld 2014) are all the more curious. Although people in most of the country’s governorates considered police work to be either ineffective or entirely absent, they seem to generally call for more police presence despite their often-bad experiences. While these observations are fairly recent phenomena in West Asia and North Africa, they are not new in a global context. Müller’s (2012) study on policing in Mexico City’s poor neighborhoods demonstrates that local residents do not abandon state institutions as security providers, despite their predominantly negative perceptions about and encounters with the police. Higazy’s (2008) case study on Nigeria investigates the interaction between the state, vigilantes, and militias. Here, non-state security actors, mostly militias, cooperate with the police in order to legitimate their claims and use of violence. This is corroborated by residents claiming that local militias do a better job than the police in security provision.
This workshop aims at conceptualizing these ambivalent relationships in comparative perspective, addressing the different ways in which boundaries and relations between military, police and civilian worlds are reshaped today. We wish to gather papers dealing with the following themes:
Advocating an agency-informed perspective, we encourage to look at the following actors:
As the workshop intends to bring together scholarship in a transregional and interdisciplinary perspective, scholars working on regions ‘outside’ West Asia and North Africa will be present at the workshop as panel discussants. This shall deepen existing conceptual tools for the phenomena in question and perhaps allow for thinking new ones.
The workshop will be held on 26-27 November 2015 at the Center for Near and Middle Eastern Studies, Marburg University. Abstracts (max. 500 words, plus short resume) should be submitted in English, elaborating on sources, outlining key questions, and methodology. Accepted panelists will be notified by 15 June 2015. Full papers shall be submitted by 31 October 2015. Abstracts should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com by 22 May 2015. Travel and subsistence expenses will be covered.