Discourses and Practices of Nonviolent Resistance in Violent Contexts: The Case of Syria, 2011-2014
Date: 7 January 2019
University of Exeter
Doctor of Philosophy in Politics
Before the Syrian Uprising transformed into a violent conflict, ordinary people engaged in nonviolent resistance against the regime, in the hope that it would bring about change. Both the media and academic researchers often evidenced a tendency to focus on violence, at the expense of non-violent forms of protest and resistance. This ...
Before the Syrian Uprising transformed into a violent conflict, ordinary people engaged in nonviolent resistance against the regime, in the hope that it would bring about change. Both the media and academic researchers often evidenced a tendency to focus on violence, at the expense of non-violent forms of protest and resistance. This thesis directly addresses this defect by focusing on nonviolent resistance and its continued significance within the Syrian conflict. This thesis explores how ordinary people with no history of civic engagement become involved in nonviolent resistance. It argues that the nonviolent resistance in the context of extreme violence become very complex. It cannot be classified into hidden or public resistance but rather becomes a continuum of hidden actions and public confrontation. In other words, nonviolent resistance actions become a mixture of both hidden and public transcript where borders between both spheres blur. This thesis examines these nonviolent by studying the case of Syria between 2011 and 2014. It traces the origins of nonviolent resistance and seeks to identify how ordinary citizens continued to use this form of resistance even as the regime extensively applied techniques of armed violence. The continued relevance of non-violence within a violent context is, therefore, one of the key conundrums which this thesis seeks to address. It also engages with the question of mobilisation; more precisely the question of why those who had previously been politically disengaged or apathetic took the decision to directly join protest which called for the removal of the Assad regime. The second part of the thesis seeks to identify how these motivations translate into actions, along with the precise techniques that are used to resist the regime power via nonviolent means. The final stage of the thesis traces non-violent resistance and examines how its techniques were deployed, with a view to reclaiming space and resisting the regime’s attempts to dominate physical, intellectual and virtual space – these are the three levels that this thesis will engage. The thesis is based on the personal reflections and self-understanding of the activists. It examines how they understand their role and involvement and how they perceive their nonviolent actions. The data for this thesis is based on 78 interviews with activists and ordinary people who are/were active participants in the nonviolent resistance. Participant observation is a key source of information that complements fieldwork and direct contact with target participants.
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