RPP 9: End of Term Mentor Meeting

My mentor, Dr. Malini Ranganathan, and I have met consistently every 2-3 weeks throughout the semester to discuss my progress on my research project. On December 6th, she and I met for around 20 minutes at 2:10 pm to have our final mentor meeting for the semester.

We discussed two main topics: reviewing the progression of how my puzzle and research questions have changed this semester and the next steps moving into 306 next semester.

This semester, my project has undergone a sharp turn into new territory. I initially began my research wanting to focus on urban planning techniques that proved to be successful in Global South cities. As Dr. Ranganathan and I worked to broaden my horizons within the critical urban geography world, I started to realize my interest in how class division operates within these bounds. As I read more and more scholarship in the field, I settled on a specific interest surrounding this urban class discourse and its relation to activism and revolution. I wondered why the middle-, working-, and subaltern classes were so divided despite all facing a similar opponent in their activism: the rich and powerful. Together, they would be stronger, and class was an aspect of activism studies that was often overlooked by scholars, even though the division seemed extremely counterintuitive to me.

This has all led to me deciding on my research design as of right now: a small-n case study driven by the question, “What explains the difference in transformational outcomes resulting from the Arab Spring uprisings demanding democratic reform in Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, and Libya?” specifically focusing on class’ impact in those movements.

Dr. Ranganathan encouraged me to broaden my thinking about class’ place in activism since I had struggled to find scholarship that directly attributed class as playing a main role in movements. She suggested I also consider the question, “if at all, to what extent does class feature in studies of social movement?” Additionally, we discussed how class intersects with other identities, such as sectarianism and religion.

Regarding next steps, I am not using human subjects and will be focusing on the analysis of documents and social media presence to inform my case study. Therefore, there is not much I need to consider regarding the IRB. Instead, I will be focusing over break and in the future on reading as much Arab ethnographic work as possible as well as considering the intersection of class and activism on a broader context, including important movements in Lagos, Hong Kong, Ecuador, Chile, and more. This will assist me in approaching the execution of my research with a better base understanding of Arab culture as well as the role class divisions have played in social movements outside of the Arab world.

After meeting with Dr. Esser a few weeks ago, I don’t currently have any pressing questions about SISU-306. Instead, I simply ask if there is any additional preparation for the class, aside from further research, that he would recommend.

RPP 8: Data Sources & Interpretivist Research

  1. I am proposing to research uprisings demanding democratic reform in the Arab Spring.


  1. This is because I want to find out what explains empowerment of the middle- and working-class that allowed them to revolt against their authoritarian governments.


  1. In order to help my reader understand what discourse change empowered middle- and working-class people to effectively revolt against their authoritarian governments rather than succumbing to suppression.


How did it become possible for middle- and working-class people to influentially revolt against their authoritarian governments in the Arab Spring?

I’m analyzing two primary sources which represent a discourse analyzing what factors were represented to outsiders as emboldening Arab citizens to revolt against their government rather than succumbing to the suppression of their dictators. The object of inquiry, X, is the discourse regarding what motivated middle- and working-class citizens to stand up to their authoritarian governments. These two sources also represent how the discourse is broadcasted to outsiders from the conflict, making the actors contributing to the discourse empowering Arab Spring protesters foreign media and government documents.

The first is a speech given by Barack Obama, who was President of the United States during the Arab Spring.[1] It details the events that have occurred within all the countries affected by the regional chain of uprisings. It firstly creates an image of the Arab citizens protesting as change-makers for good who are motivated by their frustration, explaining Tunisia’s revolutionary beginnings as an emotional exodus: “that vendor’s act of desperation tapped into the frustration felt throughout the country.”[2] This speech was given soon after the assassination of Osama Bin Laden through a US operation, so President Obama’s words were observed by many Americans and foreigners observing the conflict, and therefore interact with outside perspectives of the Arab Spring as well as other texts promoting an image of protesters.

Second is an article published by The Washington Post in the midst of the Arab Spring which includes interviews from demonstrators in Syria to explain what motivates them.[3] A Syrian student emphasizes that the demonstrations are secular and the protestors are “moved by freedom, by our sense of humanity.”[4] This text represents the discourse about the character of protesters to outsiders of the protests, while also interacting with a discourse being pushed by the Arab authoritarian governments being revolted against which claims the protests are being religiously motivated.

[1] Office of the Press Secretary. “Remarks by the President on the Middle East and North Africa,” The White House. (Washington D.C.: 19 May 2011), 1.

[2] Ibid, 1.

[3] Tara Bahrampour. “Inspired by Neighbors and Technology, Syrians Join in Revolution,” The Washington Post. 16 April 2011, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/inspired-by-neighbors-and-technology-syrians-join-in-revolution/2011/04/16/AF3JPjqD_story.html.

[4] Ibid.