Language, power and the "Arab Spring": three case studies
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 22:07 by Abdullah Qabani
In both Eastern and Western traditions, political discourse and its relations to power and ideology have been studied. The focus of this thesis is the political discourse of three Middle East dictators, Bashar al-Assad (Syria), Zine al Abidine Ben Ali (Tunisia), and Muammar Gaddafi (Libya) during the time known as “the Arab Spring”. Though this period has been given scholarly attention, there are few studies of the Arab Spring from the point of view of the recruitment of political discourse by Arab dictators as a mechanism to attempt to defend their legitimacy. Two speeches from each leader have been analyzed. These speeches were given at times of popular uprisings in each country, which threatened the legitimacy of these leaders’ hold on power. Under the pressure of popular dissent, how did these leaders respond? While all three recruited the considerable coercive power at their disposal, at the same time, all three sought the power of discourse to construct and defend their legacies, to project their accounts of the external interference in domestic affairs, and to recruit shared identities (based on nationalism, and pan-Arabism). The use of coercive power, even in essentially non-democratic societies, still requires ideological legitimation. Drawing on a combination of systemic, functional linguistics, and rhetorical studies, the research investigates the strategies or instruments these leaders used, the positions they were talking from, their strive for legitimacy, their choice of rhetorical devices and the similarities and differences between them in terms of structure and use of language in general were asked. These forms of language, and their significance in relation to attempts by these dictators to take control of the meanings associated with the political situation of the time, are also considered in their sociological context, drawing particularly on the work of Weber, Hisham Sharabi, Halim Barakat and others.