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Middle East Critique

For a Special Issue on

The Impossibility of Stability: What to Make of the Ruination of Yemen

Abstract deadline
01 December 2023

Manuscript deadline
30 June 2024

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Special Issue Editor(s)

Isa Blumi, Stockholm University
[email protected]

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The Impossibility of Stability: What to Make of the Ruination of Yemen

According to most accounts, violence has been ubiquitous in Yemen for decades. While such violence prefaces any substantial research on the country, any cursory look at the same scholarship suggests it cannot be so easily codified in prevailing social science models, especially within the frame of “policy-analysis.” Regularly shifting factors contribute to the origins, continuation, and subsequent adaptations of these episodes of violence on and within Yemen. Since 2015 especially, the violence, regularly explained as a “civil war,” pits indigenous agents in search of objectives rarely explained beyond reference to “tribal,” regional, and/or sectarian differences. Accounts for the origins of these “ancient hatreds,” accordingly, seem hesitant to link their main domestic, living perpetrators with the material conditions found within and/or beyond Yemen. As argued in Destroying Yemen (Blumi 2018), scholars treating violence as normative mistaken their sociocultural models of analysis unique to Yemen for meaningful considerations of possible other accounts for violence regularly seen in scholarship focused on other parts of the world.

This Special Issue (SI) thus seeks to address the continued failures of self-refenced “Yemeni Studies” approaches by providing space to contributions using a wide variety of methodological and theoretical prisms. At the forefront, papers considering the following are most welcome:

  • Analysis of the polemics within Yemeni or foreign media environments. What are the outstanding characteristics of these media that try to account for the violence? Too often media representations of, for example, “Houthis,” revert to insinuations of their illegitimacy due to their “foreign” origins as “Hashimites” or loyalties to Iran. Papers exploring this discourse of legitimacy in Yemen would draw from scholars working on other regions of the world who utilize a critical reading of media to help their interdisciplinary refashioning of the social conditions of conflict.
  • Ethnographies/historical accounts that engage the scholarship of colleagues working in other fields of study, be it Latin America, urban post-industrial Europe/USA, or postcolonial studies more generally, in order to explore Yemen in new ways.
  • Articles that explicitly challenge policy analysis and think-tank content that resort to rephrasing US State Dept. or other government propaganda long criticized in postcolonial circles. For example, scholarship that identifies and critically engages how those writing within the narrow confines of the Yemeni Studies lexicon lay exclusive claim to knowledge about Yemen’s ruination. The resulting codification of indigenous proclivities for violence often make it impossible to analyze Yemen under conditions other than instability. Such contributions would serve to guide the “non-specialist” reader by carefully explaining the contours of possible counter-narratives.
  • Historical accounts that avoid the anachronistic reference to material and structural conditions emerging in all regions of SW Arabia since WWII. This could include close, critical readings of indigenous (Yemeni, regional) historiography and/or how such debated uses of local knowledge are treated in Euro-American academies.
  • Interdisciplinary, theoretically informed work that reflects on how any number of possible foreign factors, including from within Yemeni diasporas, inform the nature and/or applications of violence in Yemen.
  • The political economy of Yemen at any time, with ethnographies of current zones of confrontation, especially Ta’iz, the Tihama, Shabwa, or Mahra particularly welcome. Possible questions to answer include how economic life is impacted for a wide range of peoples in these immediate areas of conflict, including those “displaced” by violence, either in Yemen or neighboring areas.

Submission Instructions

Interested authors should submit a 250/500-word abstract by email to the journal's Editor, Matteo Capasso, at [email protected] and SI guest editor, Isa Blumi, at [email protected].

The abstract should make sure to provide the major aspects of the envisioned paper, which include: 1) the main research question; 2) the conceptual and/or methodological foundations; 3) the main argument of the paper.

We aim for a special issue of 7-9 original articles, preceded by an introduction by the editors.

Selected authors are expected to submit an original article of 8000-9000 words.

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