Archive, Lectures

Asef Bayat


“Non-Movements and the Power of the Ordinary”


This talk explores what the ordinary people (in the Middle East) do to get around and resist the severe constraints the authoritarian polity, neo-liberal economics, and moral authorities on their civil and economic rights. Bayat discussed the diverse ways in which the subaltern groups–men, women, and the young—resort to ‘non-movements’ to affect the contours of change in their societies, by refusing to exit from the social and political stage controlled by authoritarian regimes, and by discovering or generating spaces within which they can assert their rights and enhance their life chances. He conceptualizes these everyday and dispersed practices in terms of social ‘non-movements’, and discuss how these ‘non-movements’, by establishing alternative norms in society, become the matrix of broader social change in society, and how they may or may not evolve into larger societal movements.


Asef Bayat, the Catherine and Bruce Bastian Professor of Global and Transnational Studies, teaches Sociology and Middle East at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Before joining Illinois, he taught at the American University in Cairo for many years, and served as the director of the International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World (ISIM) holding the Chair of Society and Culture of the Modern Middle East at Leiden University, The Netherlands. His research areas range from social movements and social change, to religion-politics-everyday life, Islam and the modern world, and urban space and politics. His recent books include Making Islam Democratic: Social Movements and the Post-Islamist Turn (Stanford University Press, 2007); (with Linda Herrera) Being Young and Muslim: Cultural Politics in the Global South and North (Oxford University Press, 2010); and Life as Politics: How Ordinary People Change the Middle East (Stanford University Press, 2010). The revised and extended edition of Life as Politics will be published in May 2013, and so will Post-Islamism: The Changing Faces of Political Islam (Oxford University Press).


This event was co-sponsored by the Human Rights Project, the Center for Civic Engagement and the Sociology Program.

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