GRM 2010 GRM 2011

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Bahrain's sovereignty crisis in light of the 2011 “Arab Spring” uprising
Paper Proposal Text :

This paper will explore the “sovereignty crisis” in Bahrain that we believe has been at the forefront of the political conflict since Bahrainis joined the Arab revolutions in 2011 which culminated in a military intervention by a Saudi-led army. This brought to the fore the issue of Bahrain’s ‘sovereignty’. Though the reductionist narrative of the Bahraini uprising in the media is commonly viewed prism of sectarianism – a Shia-majority revolting against Sunni-minority rule, the conflict is deeper and challenges the existing paradigms of sovereignty studies. This use of a sectarian framing serves to delegitimize the 'authenticity' of the uprising and is used to explain its 'failure' as a revolution at the socio-political level. From a governmental perspective, scholars have referred to "monarchical exceptionalism" to explain regime survival through the historical legitimacy conferred to the ruling families, with continuing reference to "rentier state theory" as the government’s organizing principle.
In this paper we question these three primary paradigms of sectarianism, monarchical exceptionalism and renteirism, for understanding the crisis of sovereignty in Bahrain. We begin by examining the traditional notion of sovereignty from a territorial perspective before moving on to explore “effective sovereignty” proposed by Agnew as an alternative way of thinking about sovereignty in terms of territoriality and instead looking at political and economic relations. We argue that this sovereignty crisis extends back to at least 1971 when "rupture" with the British empire took place, we explore the re-emergence of settler-colonial discourse by the regime & its loyalists.