Ambiguities of Domination-Lisa Wedeen

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One of the topics we covered this semester in Authoritarianism and Change in the Middle East and North Africa was the events that lead to the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011. To do this we covered a variety of sources to provide a comparative narrative as to the circumstances that lead up to revolution in each country.

Lisa Wedeen’s book Ambiguities of Domination was the source we use primarily in relation to the events leading up to the Syrian Revolution. This book provided a great insight to the circumstances under which Syrians were pushed to the breaking point of revolution. This was through the heavy government censorship, the cult of personality under the Assad regime and the constant fear of secret police to list a few.

Perhaps the best part of this book was the section containing the political cartoons which were poking fun of the Assad regime and the system of governance. I found it absolutely incredible that the government allowed some of these cartoons to be printed. However, after some consideration, the government due to all of its censorship and heavy handed policy, allowing these cartoons to be published is a statement in itself as to how much control the regime had over the people. It was basically saying “we know everything especially how much you criticize us.”

The true benefit of this book comes in the similarities found between pre-Revolutionary Syria and other states in the region. For my final paper I addressed the topic of the Tunisian Revolution and why it was so successful compared to others in the region, especially Syria’s. The important takeaway here is the similarities between the countries under the Ben Ali regime in Tunisia and the Assad Regime in Syria.

All in all I found this book to be a great tool in understanding the region as a while even if at times it was a bit difficult to understand the vernacular of Wedeen.

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