Edition 2023

The Left(s) in the MENA Region: Actors, trajectories and strategies

26- 30 June 2023

The development and the trajectories of left-wing movements and parties in the Middle East and North Africa region is fully integrated in leftist dynamics, debates and changes at the global level. Contrary to the current perception of the region and against its Orientalist construction overly focused on Islamism and Islam, it is worth to note how the left in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has a long autonomous history, deep local roots and, over the last century,it has contributed to the formation of the state.

Left-wing movements and parties at the regional level flourished in the 1960s and 1970s and the scholarly literature reflected this political trend, but since then there has been an almost total lack of interest in the left in the MENA (with few exceptions), following its electoral, discursive and social decline. However, the revolutionary moments of the 2000s seem to have given new momentum to the study ofmovements and, more generally, of the ‘lefts’ in the area. This effort has also opened up new trajectories and lines of inquiry on the subaltern subjects or on the postcolonial issues, broadening the debate on the role of leftist intellectuals in the region whose voice has often been silenced.

The 10th edition of the summer school “Understanding the Middle East” critically unpacks trajectories, actors and strategies of the ‘lefts’ in the Middle East and North Africa both diachronically and through a themed perspective. Which has been the role of the leftist movements, parties and intellectuals in the construction of the modern Middle East? What explains the decline the left experienced since the 1980s? How is it linked to global and local trends, particularly in the neoliberal era? What is the current state of leftist politics in the MENA? How do local and regional debates and mobilisation connect – or not – with broader ones at the global level? Why do leftist parties and movements seem to be unable to break through despite conditions favourable to leftist discourses? In short, what is left of the left in the MENA?

The objective of the summer school is to offer useful tools of analysis to better understand the complexity of the Middle East and, at the same time, to put forth thoughtful explanations rather than oversimplifications.