MESA 2020: IRWANA participates

Different members of our group are participating at the 54th Annual Meeting of the Middle East Studies Association, happening October 5-17, 2020.

Ferran Izquierdo and Laura Feliu:

Comparing Power Regimes. A proposal to explain the different features and results of the Arab Spring in the Maghrib

Olivia Isabell Glombitza:

Ideology and Nuclear Power in Iran: A Comparison of the Political Elite’s Discursive Practices

Blanca Camps-Febrer:

Neoliberal Security and the Authoritarian State: A contradiction in terms?

More info at:

Or contact us at: IRWANA

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Conclusions from SSR Project

Based on the current literature on Secuirty Sector Reform, we note the lack of successful cases in the field, which has led the same theorists of the field to rethink, or to question, the current theoretical framework.

There has been a lack of depth in the socio-political analysis prior to the planning of
SSR processes.

SSR has been frequently considered as a process outside the country’s politics and
power relations, whereas we see it essentially as a political process with a strong
impact on power relations
, both among its elites, as between these and the external
actors (regional or global actors) or with respect to the population. Case studies have
allowed us to illustrate how the sociology of power is useful in order to reveal these
effects in power relations.

We also found a very reduced number of academic articles that analyze the security
sector in the countries of North Africa and the Middle East, despite the outstanding
weight of the security sector in these states.

The sociology of power is a useful framework for the analysis of the security sector,
since it helps overcome rigid limits traditionally established in its study. The sociology
of power focuses on the power relations between the actors and in the resources of
power which they use. This proposal offers a theoretical framework that makes it
possible to reveal the dynamics in the power relations around the security sector, as
well as the impact of an SSR process. On the other hand, it allows us to include
social structures in our analysis, which are essential in order to identify where elites
and populations are placed and move. Likewise, this proposal allows us to analyze
complex social systems in detail without falling into simplifications that obscure
essential parts of the object of study.

Turkish Police surveilling a gathering of relatives of enforced disappeared in Siirt

The analysis of the security sector must take into account the transnational level,
avoiding the differentiation between internal and external. This becomes clear in the
analysis of power relations between elites, who often compete or establish alliances
with external or even transnational elites. It is also essential to maintain the
transnational approach when the analysis includes the arms industry, the arms trade
and military aid, as we understand these can be resources of power for those actors
who have the capacity to control them.

The analysis of the security sector must take into account the longue durée, namely,
the historical evolution, not only of the institutions formally attached to the field of
security, but of the progressive creation of elites, and the emergence and evolution of
power resources in a context of social structures also resulting from historical

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El poder de la calle: revuletas y movimientos sociales en Marruecos, 26 y 28 de marzo 2019

La semana próxima en Granada, no os perdáis “El poder de la calle: revuletas y movimientos sociales en Marruecos”, con mucha de nuestra gente. Organiza la Cátedra Emilio García Gómez de la @CanalUGR

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Researching the Transnational

The Group IRMENA has been granted funding for its Research Project “Transnational Dynamics and Actors in the MENA Region: A historical Genealogy of Elites and Social Movements in between the local and global level”. The project will run until 2020 and it is led by Prof. Laura Feliu and Prof. Ferran Izquierdo.

This project aims to continue the analysis of the political and social processes in the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa) from a historical perspective but also incorporating the transnational dimension to the research lines already begun about regimes of power and popular mobilization. The analysis of the tensions in the Arab world throughout the twentieth century to the present, has allowed us to determine various factors involved:

The configuration of the regimes of power ((Izquierdo Brichs, 2012) and (Izquierdo Brichs, 2013)); its relationship to social mobilization (Feliu & Izquierdo Brichs, accepted pending of publication); and its relationship to global dynamics, which involves both global elites and transnational social mobilization.

Casablanca Finance City by @DuniaHania

The first two aspects have been studied and developed in R+D+i projects CSO2008-06232-C03-02 / CPOL, led by Dr. Ferran Izquierdo, and the HAR2012-34053 project, led by Dr. Laura Feliu. The third aspect, the impact of global dynamics, represents a novel axis added to the previous work, and it will be especially considered in this project.
Against this backdrop, local tensions are partly a product of global and regional frictions that may influence the accumulation processes of global and regional power, either by generating or subtracting capabilities to some actors. On these occasions, global and regional actors try to influence local actors. When this influence is exerted from the States and affects the geographical space, the geopolitics understood in the classical sense, is present again.
Primarily, the Middle East, and to a lesser extent, North Africa, are regions where power
resources are closely linked to the control of energy resources, thus the geography is crucial.
Moreover, territorial tensions in Libya and especially in Syria as a result of civil wars, added this new geopolitical factor in a region that had not solved the border problems inherited from colonialism. However, the interactions increasingly occur with the participation of non-state actors, hence the classical geopolitics can be considered as limited to the analysis.

Therefore, we will reflect about the links of geopolitics and globalization processes, and apply the resulting analytical framework to the relations between the global-regional-local levels and to the tensions occurring throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

The project will be structured in three main areas:

1) transnational relations;

2) power regimens and

3) social mobilization.

We want to link these three axes, taking into account the historical dimension and its relationship to the present.

3rd February, 1991. Hundreds of thousands demonstrate in Rabat against the Gulf War, L’Opinion.

IRMENA is an interdisciplinary team which includes specialists in History, Geography, International Relations, Political Science, Arabic and Islamic Studies, Sociology and Anthropology. + Info

KEY WORDS: Transnational actors; Globalization; Geopolitics; MENA; Sociology of power;
social movements; global elites; power regimes.

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RICIP 2010- Factor religiós i conflictes violents al Nord d’Àfrica, Orient Mitjà i Turquia: Presencia i visibilitat a Catalunya Conclusions

El primer eix estudiat en aquest projecte mostra la centralitat de la Mediterrània i del món àrab en les mobilitzacions de la societat civil catalana i espanyola dels darrers 20 anys. Ara bé, el seu seguiment ha estat desigual si comparem la mobilització en cadascun dels respectius conflictes violents.

La hipòtesi plantejada en el projecte és que el factor religiós té una incidència en les percepcions dels diferents agents polítics i socials sobre els conflictes, articula en part el debat que acompanya les diferents accions i influeix per tant en la mobilització ciutadana. La religió constitueix un element present en el discurs sobre la conflictivitat a la regió, i que es troba present a la visió de l’opinió pública, els mitjans de comunicació i diferents sectors polítics i socials. Ara bé, aquesta dimensió no té la mateixa incidència en tots els conflictes, i més que l’element religiós com a dada objectiva (confessió dels grups, ideologia religiosa), el factor decisiu és la construcció de l’altre a través del discurs i les percepcions. Població musulmana a Bòsnia o a Algèria, per exemple, és percebuda de forma molt diferent i això afecta el tipus de mobilització.

Els moviments socials espanyols mostren la seva capacitat de construir referents, construir discursos alternatius, i mobilitzar sectors diversos de la societat, si bé la qüestió de la coordinació segueix sent la gran assignatura pendent.

Demonstration in AlQuds

Per un altra banda, l’aprofundiment i desenvolupament de l’estudi dels conflictes violents al Nord d’Àfrica, Orient Mitjà i Turquia, amb la continuació de la base de dades iniciat a l’anterior projecte, ens va permetre introduir un nou criteri de conflictes definit per la universitat de Uppsala com “one-sided conflict” (l’ús de la violència por grups armats contra civils). Aquesta categoria de conflictes ens va permetre incloure en la base de dades més casos de conflictes amb actors que tenen afiliació religiosa. Aquesta categorizació introdueix també en l’estudi els casos recents de les revoltes àrabs. No obstant això, aquestes noves dades i  la intervenció d’experts en el marc del seminari “Islamisme a la llum de les revoltes àrabs” ens va confirmar que la variable religió no és considerada una variable fonamental en l’explicació de la conflictivitat violenta a la regió. D’aquesta manera, la perspectiva teòrica del projecte s’allunya de les aproximacions primordialistes que consideren que la fractura religiosa és una de les variables independents més influents per a explicar els conflictes violents: Els membres del grup d’investigació es decanten per aproximacions més instrumentalistes segons les quals d’altres factors estructurals vinculats amb la constitució de jerarquies i de desigualtats estan més directament vinculades amb la conflictivitat; i aproximacions  constructivistes que consideren que els conflictes socials estan integrats en estructures cognitives com la ideologia, el nacionalisme, l’etnicitat o la religió que proveeixen als actors socials de concepcions sobre el jo i sobre els demés, afectant les eleccions estratègiques.

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Call for Papers for SSR Seminar 2017

We are happy to announce the seminar ‘Security Sector and its Reform in the MENA Region’, which will take place on 25th May 2017 in Barcelona, Spain. .

The seminar is part of the research project “Security Sector Reforms (SSR): the need for a socio-political analysis”, which focuses on the Security Sector in the MENA region. The project is coordinated by Prof. Dr. Laura Feliu (Autonomous University of Barcelona) and funded by the International Catalan Institute for Peace (ICIP).

The Call for Papers is out now (cfp-ssr-seminar). The deadline for submitting abstracts for papers is January 31st, 2017.


Call for Papers for the Seminar ‘Security Sector and its Reform in the MENA Region’

The seminar ‘Security Sector and its Reform in the MENA Region’ will be held in Barcelona on the 25th May, 2017. The seminar is organized in the framework of the research project “Security Sector Reforms (SSR): the need for a socio-political analysis”, coordinated by Prof. Dr. Laura Feliu and funded by the Catalan Institute for Peace (ICIP).

The selected papers will be published in a special journal issue.


The poor results shown by the implementation of the theoretical framework on SSR have received much critique. Even scholars close to the conceptual birth of SSR are asking for an open academic debate and a reformulation of its theoretical framework (Sedra 2010; Jackson 2011; Riis Andersen 2011). The main failures of SSR programs pointed out by scholars and practitioners alike are:

  • –  an excessively technical implementation off SSR programs and a failure to integrate the political dimension.
  • –  the difficulties to identify and truly incorporate the ‘local ownership’ and the ‘civil society engagement/participation’ in the praxis, the actual novelty elements of the SSR framework
  • –  the inability to integrate the ‘governance’ dimension

The mainstream debate on SSR revolves around the discrepancies between theory and praxis. Nevertheless, the true obstacle remains to our opinion that of SSR becoming a real instrument for political, cultural and institutional change from an autochthonous approach. New proposals and case analysis are thus needed outside the SSR orthodox theoretical framework, so far based in the principles of liberal peace, of technical and bureaucratic approaches to state building and to a security-development nexus that underlines the idea that only SSR programs can secure the ‘development’ of ‘receiving’ States.

From within critical security studies, development or peace studies, other scholars see SSR programs as instruments for (post)liberal peace (Riis Andersen 2011; Chandler 2010); a western instrument for intervention (Sayigh 2007); and one of the essential mechanisms for ‘imperialist biopolitics’ (Mustafa 2015). SSR is further regarded as an instrument of population control; of strengthening of local elites in order to fight threats perceived and identified by western elites; or as a tool for neoliberal globalization

(Chandler 2010). The culpable of violence and poverty is in this framework the fragile State, or the State lacking institutions or knowledge to maintain security. The state’s inability legitimizes foreign intervention and the strengthening of certain local elites.

The failure of SSR is a theoretical one as it ignores the political dimension, does not dig deeper into fundamental concepts such as local ownership, and eludes the debate on the adequacy of neolibreal globalization and its role in each context. The failure is nevertheless practical in that SSR has not been applied with the philosophy and goals of ‘governance’, nor with the necessary coherence that external actors’ rhetoric announces.

We face a debate about the convenience of discarding SSR, of deepening its true meaning for change and transformation of the security sector, or of simply avoiding the label and focusing on the need to reform security systems. The hegemony of the perceived ‘terrorist threat’ as a global threat seems to dismiss the philosophy of the SSR proposal, prioritizing a new ‘hard security’ within the global narrative and rather perverting SSR into a stand-alone tool for enhanced military assistance.

We do not intend to elude the need for a transformative analysis of security systems, merely by critically pointing at international SSR programs. We are on the contrary trying to bring a closer look, a local or autochthonous viewpoint, without ignoring the effect that any transformation or reform performs on local populations, as well as regarding power relations (between global elites and local elites, among local elites themselves or between elites and local populations).

SSR in the Arab World.

The debate on the SSR did not penetrate the Arab region during the 90s, nor during the early 2000s (Luethold 2004; Sayigh 2007). Despite the investment of EU and some member countries (UK, the Netherlands) in SSR, most SSR interventions had so far been limited to South-Saharan Africa (Guinea-Bissau, Congo, Sierra Leone). SSR was in fact conceptualized for post-authoritarian and post-conflict contexts. The only case where the EU has funded SSR in the MENA Region is in the post-Oslo Palestine (Mustafa 2015).

After the 2011 uprisings, some authors advocate a debate on SSR for the region (Luethold 2004) in order to build an autochthonous agenda that will overcome the international donors’ rhetoric and practices (Sayigh 2007). Some wonder if SSR is even possible without radical change or without a total crisis in a region where security sector is often the backbone of regimes. SSR might in fact be in need of a more holistic approach, a change based in human rights and dependent on civil society’s and activists’ agendas and tempus. (Sayigh 2007; Kodmani and Chartouni-Dubarry 2009).


We encourage authors to submit papers for the seminar focusing not only on the theoretical framework of SSR, but also on a broader approach to the security sector and its reform in the countries of the MENA region. Papers do not necessarily need to focus on foreign-driven SSR programs. Research on the following topics will be welcomed:

  • The Security Sector Reform in the MENA Region and the validity of the instrument after the anti-authoritarian uprisings
  • Case studies on SSR and security sector transformations
  • SSR as an instrument of foreign intervention in the MENA Region
  • Endogenous initiatives on SSR
  • The development of civil-military relations in the MENA Region
  • To present the selected papers
  • To discuss about the state of the security sector in MENA countries
  • To discuss the research approaches on the security sector and their implications for SSR policies.


Authors must send an abstract of their paper (max. 400 words) with their name to: Blanca Camps-Febrer before the 31st of January 2017. The selected papers must be submitted before the 31st of February 2017. Articles may be submitted in English, French or Spanish.Funding will be available in order to cover the participation costs for at least one of the selected participants. Preference will be given to those without funding and students.



Chandler, David. 2010. International Statebuilding: The Rise of Post-Liberal Governance. Critical Issues in Global Politics 2. London  ; New York: Routledge.

Jackson, Paul. 2011. “Security Sector Reform and State Building.” Third World Quarterly 32:10: 1803–22. doi:10.1080/01436597.2011.610577.

Kodmani, Bassma, and May Chartouni-Dubarry. 2009. “The Security Sector Reform in Arab Countries: Can It Be Reformed?” Institute of Development Studies Bulletin 40 (2): 96–104.

Luethold, Arnold. 2004. “Security Sector Reform in the Arab Middle East: A Nascent Debate.” In Reform and Reconstruction of the Security Sector, 93–118. Münster: LIT Verlag.

Mustafa, Tahani. 2015. “Damming the Palestinian Spring: Security Sector Reform and Entrenched Repression.” Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding 9(2): 212–30. doi:10.1080/17502977.2015.1020738.

Riis Andersen, Louise. 2011. Security Sector Reform and the Dilemmas of Liberal Peacebuilding. Copenhagen: DIIS – Danish Institute for International Studies.

Sayigh, Yezid. 2007. “Security Sector Reform in the Arab Region: Challenges to Developing an Indigenous Agenda.” Thematic Papers. Arab Reform Initiative.

Sedra, Mark. 2010. “Security Sector Reform 101: Understanding the Concept, Charting Trends and Identigying Challenges.” The Center for International Governance Innovation (CIGI).

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Seminario de trabajo


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Un siglo de movilización social en Marruecos

Un siglo de movilización social en Marruecos  Barcelona, 30 de junio de 2016

9.00 – 10.00 h. Discusión de la Pauta de análisis, presentada por Ferrán Izquierdo y Laura Feliu

10.00 – 11.30 h. Sesión I. El Rif y el norte de Marruecos

Odile Moreau (Rif, años 1910s)
Mª Rosa de Madariaga (Alhucemas, 1921)
Angela Suárez (Nador, 1984)
Rachid Aarab (Alhucemas, 2004)

11.30 – 12.00 h. Pausa café

12.00 – 13.00 h. Sesión II.  Las ciudades del Norte

Eloy Martín Corrales (Tetuán, años 30s)
Bernabé López García (Tánger, 1952)
Laura Feliu (Tetuán, 2011)

13.00 – 13.30 h. Documentación gráfica de las revueltas,

por Natalia Ribas y Blanca Camps

15.00 – 17.00 h. Sesión III. Revueltas en las regiones centrales

Josep Lluís Mateo (Salé, 1930)
Mª Angustias Parejo (Casablanca, 1965)
Blanca Camps (Fez, 1990)
Carmelo Pérez Beltrán y Juan Antonio Macías Amoretti (Casablanca, 2000)
Ángeles Ramírez (Salé, 2010s)
Khalid Mouna (Meknés, 2011)

17.00 a 17.30 h. Cierre Seminario, 

por Josep Lluis Mateo Dieste



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