CE41 - Inégalités, discriminations, migrations

Alter-citizens in the Middle East. Inventing resistance in times of violence – IMAGIN-E

Submission summary

Citizen alternatives have emerged in the Middle East over the last decade in situations of overt or latent conflict, of crisis characterized by various forms of violence. In such circumstance states are either absent or contested because they are viewed as failing, corrupt or too authoritarian. IMAGIN-E hypothesizes that these contexts generate engagements that are more radical political, economic, and ecological grassroot social innovations – partially recalling solidarity economy, degrowth and social ecology perspectives. These initiatives show how political, economic and environmental necessities are closely linked. Hence, these situations are particularly heuristic for our understanding of alternative engagements and prefigurative practices, that have been mainly analyzed in Europe and in North and South America. Citizens are not addressing their demands primarily to the institutional political arena, in contrast to mobilizations and social movements that have been studied so far in the Middle East. They mobilize in a pragmatic way, through productive and entrepreneurial practices, often seeking autonomy. They focus on the restoration of localized forms of sovereignty and on the development of horizontal, peer-to-peer solidarity and citizen networks, here and now.
Following a multi-sited ethnography methodology, IMAGIN-E offers an original approach to develop common perspectives on alternative mobilizations that are quietly, though radically, transforming the paradigm of protest in the region. They are inventing other citizenships. Strongly rooted in the history of places, these citizen initiatives combine inventions and reinventions of traditions, historical models and modes of production, innovative glocal inspirations and translocal practices, between memory, social creativity and utopias. Firstly, IMAGIN-E will trace their mixed genealogies and analyze the life cycles of such alternative projects. It will focus on the circulation of people (refugees, activists, citizens), ideas, models and know-how, products and seeds within the Middle Eastern and the Mediterranean area. It aims to delineate the contours of a hybrid, yet emic, babel of alter-citizenships and alter-resistances in the Middle East. Secondly, the team will study their interactions with state policies and institutional actors. We will deal with the effects of these initiatives on the organization of power, the transformations or reproductions of dominant spaces and relations, of social and gender inequalities and racialization processes. Lastly, IMAGIN-E will focus on the trajectories of the actors: it will highlight biographical bifurcations, moments of individual and collective ruptures and the sensitive experiences that are shaping these new political subjectivities. These alternative engagements do have a sensitive, memorial and existential dimension, and deep ecological concern. Elaborating on the notions of belonging and sensitive citizenship, we will reflect on their reclaims, and on their counter-hegemonic values and practices. Hence, IMAGIN-E considers these emerging alter-citizenships in their holistic dimension, as much in their materiality as in their affects and imaginaries. In line with its approach, IMAGIN-E offers an original methodology combining several social science disciplines with sensitive and participatory means of production and dissemination of knowledge.

Project coordination

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


CERI Centre de recherches internationales
CITERES Cités, Territoires, Environnement et Sociétés

Help of the ANR 414,713 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: January 2022 - 48 Months

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