Regulating Resistance: From Anti to Counter-Revolutionary Practice - and Back Again - in Bahrain


On 14 February 2011 Bahrainis took to the streets demanding political reform as part of a broader wave of protests that swept across the Arab world. In the months that followed, the ruling Al-Khalifa family deployed mechanisms of sovereign power in an effort to ensure the survival of the regime. This article explores counter-revolutionary efforts deployed by the Bahraini state in an effort to eviscerate protest movements born out of the Arab Uprisings. Drawing on Giorgio Agamben's ideas about sovereign power, I argue that the Al-Khalifa regime was able to deploy a range of different tools in pursuit of survival, framing Shi'a groups as nefarious fifth columnists operating within a broader regional struggle pitting Saudi Arabia and Iran against one another. The article argues that while sect-based difference is an important aspect of contemporary Bahraini politics – facilitated by securitisation processes led by the Al-Khalifa – counter-revolutionary efforts have their roots in a state building project that gave the ruling family the ability to ensure their survival. This approach created an "anti-revolutionary" environment which prevented the emergence of widespread protest, yet when faced with serious challenges, anti-revolutionary processes morphed into counter-revolutionary mechanisms.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i20356609v14i2p743

Keywords: Agamben; anti-revolution; Arab Uprisings Bahrain; counter-revolution; sectarianism; sovereignty


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