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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Department of Geography, Environment, and Society Talk, Mohammed Bamyeh

THE DEPARTMENT of GEOGRAPHY, ENVIRONMENT, and SOCIETY is hosting a coffee hour on Friday, December 5th at 3:30 pm in Blegen Hall 445. The talk will be given by University of Pittsburg professor Mohammed Bamyeh and titled "Do Revolutions Always Disappoint?"

Do Revolutions Always Disappoint?
Mohammed Bamyeh
University of Pittsburg - Sociology
Based on observations from the Arab Spring countries, this paper pursues two related aims. First, it argues that revolutions have a tendency to disappoint, largely due to dynamics that are latent in their very character. Second, based on this thesis, the paper calls for a different approach to studying the promise and prospects of revolutions. The first goal is accomplished by surveying how new, utopian political imagination develops during the revolution and becomes one of its main driving forces. A specific social psychology becomes intertwined with that imagination. That social psychology is not equipped to outlast the revolutionary environment in the form of political institutions, although it does outlast the revolutionary moment as forms of revolutionary psychology and forms of memory among certain constituencies. It also survives at the cultural level in the form of long-term transformation in values and perspectives.
This analysis suggests that revolutions ought not to be evaluated on the basis of their immediate political accomplishments, which are typically unsatisfactory to perhaps the majority of participants. Rather, revolution and post-revolution should be treated as analytically distinct moments, in spite of their relationship. Here, the paper explores the differences between the two moments in terms of social psychology, levels of popular unity, the role of social traditions in revolutionary and post-revolutionary mobilization, how different individuals experience "progress" during the two moments, and how they remember and forget events. While the paper shows that the feeling of disappointment that is often felt after revolutions has something to do with dynamics that are latent in the revolutions themselves, it also suggests that a different level of disappointment is produced by social science itself. Specifically, the very analytical tools that social scientists prefer to use when they study revolutions and social movements in general, themselves tend to produce disappointment.