Introduction Frances S. Hasso and Zakia Salime
This book examines the gendered and sexual dimensions of the 2011 Arab
revolutions and uprisings, with specific attention to conjunctures between
bodies and spaces. It does so by incorporating the language and insights
of activists and revolutionaries who themselves worked with theoreti-
cal assumptions as they imagined and produced different futures. The
revolutions, a sequence of related nonviolent political ruptures of world-
historical significance, were initiated by Tunisians who forced their long-
time autocratic president to step down on 14 January, inspiring activists
with equality, justice, and democracy agendas around the world. The Revo-
lution in Tunisia was followed by large-scale mobilizations and revolts in
Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Morocco, and Syria, as well as upheavals in ev-
ery Arab country. Millions rose against militarized, securitized, and unac-
countable states, Western imperialism, poverty, and national and transna-
tional forms of economic extraction. The revolutions occurred in places
where majorities struggled to be free from repression and degradation and
in many cases feed families and access clean water—in short, to live digni-
fied lives. Ruling governments in every Arab country fearfully consolidated
as millions chanted in Arabic, “Al- shaޏb yurid isqat al- nizam!”—The people
want the fall of the regime! In Arabic nizam denotes “order,” “regime,” and
“system”; thus the resounding collective demand challenged many orders
and systems and was not read simply as a call to rearrange ruling seats. The
valences of this chant differed among and within countries, over time, and
in many cases between revolutionaries and activists as gendered, sexual-
ized, ideological, and class tensions came to the fore.
Despite calling these revolutions “Arab,” we recognize ethnic terrains
and borders to be contested, identifications and solidarities to be multiple,
and antecedents to be plural and layered. Nouns such as spring, revolution,
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