Molecular Transformations

Small Group Project 2024-25


Roberto Roccu
Small Group Project 2024-25

Public and scholarly attitudes on the prospects of democratisation in the Arab region often swing wildly between optimism and pessimism, confident predictions of sweeping transformations and gloomy declarations of political immutability. The latest developments in Tunisia, with the removal of institutional checks and balances by President Kais Saied, has been presented as the nail in the coffin of the demands and hopes animating the Arab uprisings. This project argues that the mood swings mentioned above are symptomatic of the overwhelming focus on political regimes in the study of Arab politics. This focus needs to be complemented with an account of political dynamics exceeding regimes and institutions. This is what this project aims to provide. Considering his rich theorisation of the relation between state and civil society, Gramsci provides an antidote against falling into an unhelpful opposition between ‘politics from above’ and ‘politics from below’. Building on the growing literature on subaltern groups and movements in the Arab world, this project focuses particularly on the notion of ‘molecular transformations’ to connect local subaltern struggles to the prospects for systemic transformation (Marchi 2021). 

In practical terms, the project will bring together a diverse group of scholars, civil society, and activist groups for a two-day workshop at GramsciLab in Cagliari, in Gramsci’s native Sardinia. Through a combination of scholarly papers and first-hand accounts, the project will provide a preliminary theoretical and empirical mapping of subaltern movements in the contemporary Arab world, and what their activities and practices might mean for the prospects of political transformation in the region. In an age of global democratic decline, this project’s contribution on subaltern politics under repression and authoritarian rule, in the form of a special issue proposal and a dissemination report, promises to hold relevance well beyond the Arab world.

Contacting Fellows

If you would like to contact any of our Fellows to discuss their ISRF-funded work, please contact Dr Lars Cornelissen (Academic Editor) in the first instance, at [email protected].