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Title: The movement for a society of peace : Islamism and political sense-making in post-conflict Algeria
Author: Sakthivel, Vishvini Arasi
ISNI:       0000 0004 9347 7990
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2019
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This thesis seeks to broadly understand the role of social meaning-making in the formation, practices, and discourses of political challengers. Focusing on the case of Islamism in Algeria, I highlight how collective efforts to make sense of the 1989 political opening and the 1990s civil conflict have re-introduced into public contestation: the meaning of Islamist moderation, the role of religion in politics, Algerianness/nationalism, and the viability of political parties. Using ethnographic research focused on Algeria’s Muslim Brotherhood affiliate, the Movement for a Society of Peace (MSP) party, I show that such contested concepts factor prominently in how movement identity is negotiated and political platforms are articulated, both by the leadership in order to position itself as a viable political actor, and by the movement base so they may reconcile their multiple subjectivities. I argue that Algerian Islamists do not reject the wider political culture that disavows their brand of politics or the attendant hegemonic frames used to cast them out of the body politic; instead, they work to make their positions and their activism legible, palatable, and even meaningful through these very frames. This argument interrogates the assumption common in academic literature that Islamism is at odds with local and nationalist articulations of subjecthood. This responds to two literatures. First is the literature on Islamist parties in authoritarian contexts, which tends to view parties as unidimensional: either as votemaximizing parties seeking to alternate ‘power’ with the regime, as ‘contentious’ social movements, or as piety-driven religious revivalists. An ethnography of the MSP reveals a case where what animates members are not fixed or neatly classifiable. Rather, their goals and identities as a movement are formed more through interaction with those of the wider body politic, than with some grander, disembodied imperatives. Second is the literature on Algerian post-conflict politics, which has tended to take popular characterizations of a moribund partisan sphere and generally meaningless Algerian politics at face value, rather than analyzing them as the values, priorities, narratives and social labels through which sense-making processes manifest, and decoding their function in Algerian political culture. Instead, this thesis deconstructs the prevailing discursive patterns as means through which power, social order, and legitimacy are (re)negotiated.
Supervisor: Willis, Michael J. Sponsor: Oxford University ; Council of American Overseas Research Centers
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Politics ; Ethnography ; Middle East Studies