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State of Exception Project

Palestine and the state of exception- Joint book project with Richardson institute in the UK.

July 2017- November 2019

Book Overview

Simon Mabon & Sanaa Alsarghali

George Orwell once commented that after revolution, “one does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship”. After the Arab Uprisings, such remarks appear prophetic in a number of Middle Eastern countries as the political landscape across the Middle East has become increasingly contested. Regime-society relations have continued to fragment, resulting in increasingly fractious political dynamics, rising sectarian tensions and a growth in political violence. Within this contested landscape, political elites have sought to maintain their rule by using constitutional powers to declare ‎‎‘states of emergency’, which invariably evolve into states of exception.

These ‘emergency’ declarations of ‘exception’ are mechanisms that provide the executive branch of government more powers at certain times. Indeed, countries are considered to be in a ‘state of emergency’ when executive power suspends the normal rule of law, and power is transferred to the police or military. In this book we will discuss how the new (or amended) Arab Constitutions – post Arab Uprisings – have attempted to regulate the ‘state of exception’, using a unique combination of both legal and political theory perspectives.Focusing on Arab republics that have traditionally been beset by the emergence of emergency powers, the book looks at the intersection of law and politics and the impact on the regulation of life across those states.

Building on workshops held at Lancaster University in the summers of 2017 and ‎‎2018, this book seeks to explore and develop the concept of the ‘state of exception’ in the contemporary Middle East using the work of the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben. To do this, the book draws on both political and legal theories, along with scholars closely related to Agamben, including Achille Mbembe and Carl Schmitt. By involving contributors from the both the political sciences and legal profession, this book can provide a unique synergy of perspectives that is able to offer a rich exploration of how politics and law combine to facilitate the misuse of executive powers. Without this crossover of perspectives, the concept of the ‘state of exception’ has tended to remain burrowed within the respective disciplines, thus limiting its insightful potential.

Central to this multi-disciplinary approach, is making explicit the differences between the various terms associated with state of exception (the ‘state of emergency’ and the ‘state of necessity’) that have often been used interchangeably. Indeed, the misusage of the term and the way it is implemented plays a major role in shaping both the political circumstances and the process of constitutional drafting. In combining the perspectives of legal theory with political theory this book hopes to provide a more precise account of the ‘state of exception’ that has tended to occur in these Middle Eastern countries’ despite their explicit attempts, post-Arab Uprisings, to prevent the centralization of executive power.