Islamophobia, orientalism and the Arab Uprisings: how hegemonic discourses obscured the material causes of the uprisings

Stream: Panel 6 - Comparative Politics: The International Political Economy of Islamophobia
Date: Monday, 26 September 2016
Time: 11.30 am – 1.00 pm


The Arab uprisings provide the context for this paper about discourse and power. This paper sets as a primary purpose the investigation of how dominant representations of Islam prevail. How the dominant ideas repress others despite the multiplicity of voices and the complexity of ideas that circulate in the post-modern era. The approach is not driven by a single approach, but to the principle of post-positivism to expose the historicity of “Western” misrepresentation and abuse of the Orient as principally one where all events are determined by Islam. What this paper argues is that Orientalism obscured the historicity of the Arab uprisings with forms of Islamophobia. While today the control over discourses is not as monopolistic as it was during the heyday of European colonialism, the dominance of Eurocentric and Orientalist discourses and the immense material and cultural capital of the producers of contemporary forms of knowledge of the Orient: Western governments, think-tanks, mercenary “experts” and the international media mean that much bending and re-engineering occurred to reinstate dominant representations once the initial euphoria of the Arab uprisings had subsided. This article does what it can to expose this and especially the claims that the prevailing force in the region is Islam. Once these discourses are exposed as mechanisms of western dominance and epistemic violence over the Middle East, then it will be possible to commence the project of revealing the voices of the protesters that brought the Imperial system in the Middle East to the brink.


Noah Bassil (Presenter), Macquarie University
Senior Lecturer, Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations, Macquarie University, Sydney.