Peripheral Visions: Publics, Power, and Performance in Yemen

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Overview

The government of Yemen, unified since 1990, remains largely incapable of controlling violence or providing goods and services to its population, but the regime continues to endure despite its fragility and peripheral location in the global political and economic order. Revealing what holds Yemen together in such tenuous circumstances, Peripheral Visions shows how citizens form national attachments even in the absence of strong state institutions.

Lisa Wedeen, who spent a year and a half in Yemen observing and interviewing its residents, argues that national solidarity in such weak states tends to arise not from attachments to institutions but through both extraordinary events and the ordinary activities of everyday life. Yemenis, for example, regularly gather to chew qat, a leafy drug similar to caffeine, as they engage in wide-ranging and sometimes influential public discussions of even the most divisive political and social issues. These lively debates exemplify Wedeen’s contention that democratic, national, and pious solidarities work as ongoing, performative practices that enact and reproduce a citizenry’s shared points of reference. Ultimately, her skillful evocations of such practices shift attention away from a narrow focus on government institutions and electoral competition and toward the substantive experience of participatory politics.

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Editorial Reviews

Times Higher Education
Wedeen's brilliant, thought-provoking and beautifully written book . . . is about the practice of politics—and also about a more interesting way of 'writing about' politics. It is this combination that makes it not only a compelling piece of scholarship, but also a profoundly useful course reading for those curious students . . . who want to go beyond the commonplace defintion of such congested concepts as 'democracy,' 'identity,' 'nationalism,' and 'Islamic politics'. . . . It is one of a new breed of books about Middle East politics that upend our understanding of political concepts, introduce texture and depth into theories of politics, and show the way forward.

— Laleh Khalili

Social Anthropology
[Wedeen's approach] allows the dynamic of everyday reality to enter the scholarly description, and thus lets us move flexibly between specific and general, empirical and philosophical, national and individual. . . . Besides a well-polished argument which makes the book a pleasure to read, Peripheral Visions engages with outstanding scholarship in fields ranging from feminism, anthropology to political theory.

— Carolina Ivanescu

Times Higher Education - Laleh Khalili

"Wedeen's brilliant, thought-provoking and beautifully written book . . . is about the practice of politics—and also about a more interesting way of 'writing about' politics. It is this combination that makes it not only a compelling piece of scholarship, but also a profoundly useful course reading for those curious students . . . who want to go beyond the commonplace defintion of such congested concepts as 'democracy,' 'identity,' 'nationalism,' and 'Islamic politics'. . . . It is one of a new breed of books about Middle East politics that upend our understanding of political concepts, introduce texture and depth into theories of politics, and show the way forward."
Social Anthropology - Carolina Ivanescu

"[Wedeen's approach] allows the dynamic of everyday reality to enter the scholarly description, and thus lets us move flexibly between specific and general, empirical and philosophical, national and individual. . . . Besides a well-polished argument which makes the book a pleasure to read, Peripheral Visions engages with outstanding scholarship in fields ranging from feminism, anthropology to political theory."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226877914
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2008
  • Series: Chicago Studies in Practices of Meaning Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 789,775
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Lisa Wedeen is professor in and chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago and the author of Ambiguities of Domination: Politics, Rhetoric, and Symbols in Contemporary Syria.
 

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Table of Contents

List of Maps
Acknowledgments
 
Introduction
 
Chapter One
Imagining Unity
 
Chapter Two
Seeing Like a Citizen, Acting Like a State
 
Chapter Three
The Politics of Deliberation: Qat Chews as Public Spheres
 
Chapter Four
Practicing Piety, Summoning Groups: Disorder as Control
 
Chapter Five
Piety in Time: Contemporary Islamic Movements in National and Transnational Contexts
 
Conclusion
Politics as Performative
 
Notes

Bibliography
Index

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