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University of Chicago Press
Peripheral Visions: Publics, Power, and Performance in Yemen

Peripheral Visions: Publics, Power, and Performance in Yemen

by Lisa WedeenLisa Wedeen
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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780226877914
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication date: 10/01/2008
Series: Chicago Studies in Practices of Meaning Series
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)

About 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.

Table of Contents

List of Maps
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
Politics as Performative


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