The Languages of the Arab Revolutions

Issue Date April 2012
Volume 23
Issue 2
Page Numbers 5-18
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The upheavals that have been shaking the Arab-Muslim world are revolutions in discourse as well as in the streets. Arabs are using not only traditional and religious vocabularies, but also a new set of expressions that are modern and represent popular aspirations. We now seem to be at a moment when large strata in Arab societies (and in developing countries more broadly) have reached a state of real disenchantment with utopias, and seem to be ready for other forms of political participation. The conviction that there are alternatives to the kinds of regimes that have for so long imposed themselves on Arab societies—that life under this or that brand of dictatorship and unaccountable rule emphatically does not have to be the Arabs’ fate—seems to have taken hold of the collective imagination.