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Call for Papers: Imagining Democracy: Arab Spring, Asian Visions and Western Lessons, 28-29 November 2012, Groningen, The Netherlands


cesThe 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.

Hence, focusing on Middle Eastern, North African and Asian perspectives on democratic thought and practices, this conference will address, but is not limited to, the following questions:

-          How should we imagine democracy? What are its proper forms and institutions? Can there be “proper” forms and institutions?
-          What are the arguments against dominant democratic theories and practices?
-          What are the different visions on democracy within the MENA region amongst the different actors?
-          What are the different visions on democracy within Asia amongst its different actors?
-          What is the influence of Asian governments on democratic developments in the other regions – and vice versa?
-          What are the impacts of American and European democracy promotion on images and imaginations of democracy in the MENA region and Asia?
-          What can Western conceptions and practices of democracy learn from Asian and Middle Eastern and North African experiences and thoughts?

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

Please submit your abstracts (max. 300 words) prior to 14 September 2012 to  Este endereço de e-mail está protegido contra spambots. Você deve habilitar o JavaScript para visualizá-lo. .

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.


Dr. Mathias Thaler

Centro de Estudos Sociais

Universidade de Coimbra
Colégio de S. Jerónimo
Apartado 3087


Phone: +351 239 855 596

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