How regimes shore up power through national narratives.
Of all the factors that have been considered and evaluated as primers for the pervasive nature of authoritarianism in the Middle East, perhaps none are quite so crucial, nor quite so overlooked, as that of the national narrative. In her new book, Official Stories, International Relations professor, Laurie Brand, explores this particular discursive tool used by autocrats to legitimate their governments and quell public unrest. Citing political theorists the likes of Gramsci and Foucault, and zeroing in on the case studies of Egypt and Algeria, Brand explores how stories are deployed by ruling powers and internalized by those they rule to stabilize their otherwise unpopular regimes.
The following is an excerpt from Offical Stories: Politics and National Narratives in Egypt and Algeria, by Laurie A. Brand:
Prior to the Arab uprisings in spring 2011, much ink was spilt by academics, pundits, and journalists in an attempt to explain the resilience of the range of authoritarian regimes in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Although successive waves of democratization seemed to wash over other parts of the world, the MENA states appeared impervious to the same forces of history. Politicized, polemical, and often ill-informed writing offered a variety of ahistorical arguments focused largely on the purported resistance of a disembodied “Islam” or an essentialized Arab culture to any movements toward more meaningful participatory political systems.