In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Arab Spring

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works

African Studies Arab Spring
Marion W. Dixon
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 September 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 September 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846733-0204


The term “Arab Spring” refers to the wave of protests that swept across the Arab world beginning in December 2010 and lasting roughly through the spring of 2011. These events are referred to by other names as well, such as the Arab uprisings, the Arab Awakening, and the Arab Revolution. The protests represented cross-class popular mobilizations and were united in demanding the end of ruling coalitions. A common slogan of the protestors in Arabic was Ash-sha’b yurid isqat an-nizam (The people want to bring down the regime). The popular uprisings began in Tunisia after the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi, a young street vendor, in protest against the authorities for undermining his livelihood. The protests quickly resulted in the exile of the long-time president Zine al-Abedine Ben Ali. Soon after, protests spread to Egypt (25 January), Syria (26 January), Yemen (27 January), Bahrain (14 February), Libya (17 February), and Morocco (20 February). The immediate outcomes of the protests across the region varied considerably—from the forced resignation of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak on 11 February to the escalation of violent conflict in Syria. The immediate outcomes of the Arab Spring beyond the region were more decisive, with popular protests spreading throughout Europe (and Chile) by the summer of 2011. This “Occupy movement” that occupied public squares and the streets, like the protests in the Arab world, was unified by a common opposition to wealth inequality and the ruling classes, and it spread throughout North America in the fall of 2011. In the years that followed, popular protests continued to spread to other parts of South America, parts of sub-Saharan Africa, Hong Kong, and Turkey. In the Arab world, by the fifth anniversary, the popular uprisings resulted in little in terms of democratization, however. Counterrevolutions led to a retraction of rights and a deterioration of well-being, with, for example, the growing political power of Islamists, the reinstatement of military rule (as in Egypt), and ongoing civil wars in Syria, Libya, and Yemen. As a result, the “post–Arab Spring” period has been referred to as the Arab Winter or the Islamic Winter. Of the hundreds if not thousands of works on the Arab Spring and its aftermath, this article focuses on books and edited volumes, and to a lesser extent on scholarly articles, film, and online sources. Also, many of the references cited address the Arab Spring as a whole or offer multiple or comparative case studies, although there are works included that are country case studies. Some works are in Arabic.

General Overviews

The overviews cited here provide a broad perspective of the Arab Spring from leading scholars in the field of Middle East or Near East studies, broadly defined. Alam 2014, Amar and Prashad 2013, Gerges 2014, Haas and Lesch 2013, and Sadiki 2015—(all edited volumes), as well as the special journal issues Rivetti 2015 and Hooglund 2013, address both the causes and the consequences or outcomes of the popular uprisings.

  • Alam, Anwar, ed. Arab Spring: Reflections on Political Changes in the Arab World and Its Future. New Delhi: New Century Publications, 2014.

    An edited volume of scholarly voices “from the Global South”—scholars based in India, Turkey, Egypt, UAE, and Qatar. Addresses questions about the origin, character, and scope of the Arab Spring.

  • Amar, Paul, and Vijay Prashad, eds. Dispatches from the Arab Spring: Understanding the New Middle East. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013.

    A collection of case studies of the Arab Spring from notable intellectuals, such as Paul Amar on Egypt, Sheila Carapico on Yemen, Khalid Mustafa Medani on Sudan, and Toufic Haddad on Palestine.

  • Gerges, Fawaz A., ed. The New Middle East: Protest and Revolution in the Arab World. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

    An edited volume that brings together some titans of Middle East studies, including Gerges. Offers both micro- and macrolevel perspectives on the context and causes of the uprisings. Also cited under Comparative Historical Perspectives.

  • Haas, Mark L., and David W. Lesch, eds. The Arab Spring: Change and Resistance in the Middle East. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2013.

    This edited volume is intended for a broad audience and students studying the region. Contributions look at the origins and key consequences of the Arab Spring. Notably includes a longue durée analysis of the Tunisian revolutions from Julia Clancy-Smith.

  • Hooglund, Eric, ed. “Special Issue: The Arab Uprisings of 2011.” Middle East Critique 22.3 (2013).

    A collaboration between the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies at Lund University in Sweden, the journal Middle East Critique, and the e-zine Jadaliyya. Addresses the roots, dynamics, and intermediate aftermath of the uprisings in Egypt, Bahrain, Tunisia, and Syria.

  • Rivetti, Paola, ed. Special Issue: Continuity and Change before and after the Arab Uprisings in Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt. British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 42.1 (2015).

    Includes articles from leading scholars in Middle East studies, including Adam Hanieh and Ray Hinnebusch. Focuses on how the regimes and policymaking have been reconfigured as a result of the uprisings in Morocco, Tunisia, and Egypt.

  • Sadiki, Larbi, ed. Routledge Handbook of the Arab Spring: Rethinking Democratization. London and New York: Routledge, 2015.

    This large volume addresses all aspects of the Arab Spring—from the events to the causes to the outcomes—in many countries in the region. There is also a section devoted to responses to the uprisings from outside the region.

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