The peer-reviewed online journal “Middle East – Topics & Arguments” is calling for papers for its second issue, focusing on the “middle class,” to be published in spring 2014.
The “middle class” has recently become a matter of hot debate among politicians and researchers. However, definitions of this term and particular focuses of interest vary from region to region. In Europe, there are currently worries about the decline of the middle class and polarization of society. In contrast, crucial concerns in the Middle East are the growth of precarious middle classes along with a lack of upward mobility post-Islamism, and the role of middle classes in the “Arab revolts.”
In these discussions, the term “middle class” is used in three different ways. It can be used as a descriptive category, denoting individuals who belong to neither the upper class nor the lower class. Alternatively, the term is employed as an analytical category by theorists studying social structure and social inequality. Thirdly, the term is used as an affirmative category, in order to confirm the existence of a social majority.
A number of theoretical debates revolve around the notion of the “middle class” with regard to the Middle East. The term’s appropriateness in relation to the Middle East has been questioned by several authors, who point out the dominance of tribal and religious identities, a lack of capitalist structures, and dependence on external powers. Furthermore, it has been argued that a focus on the concept of “middle class” conceals more relevant dimensions of social structuring—namely religion, ethnicity and gender, or even cultural practices, as means of social distinction. Other scholars have applied theories of individualization to the Middle East, assuming that class differences in the region have been losing significance and are rather giving way to a flexible sense of individual belonging.
This issue of “Middle East – Topics & Arguments” aims to explore middle classes in the Middle East, or linked to the Middle East, from various perspectives. It will combine analytical examination of the concept “middle class” and empirical arguments about Middle Eastern middle classes, both as actors and as objects.
Thus, we particularly welcome contributions addressing the following topics:
• Contributions reflecting on the emergence and formation of the middle class, the term middle class itself along with its usage in studying the Middle East, shedding light on its complexity and its analytical and normative connotations. How have middle classes evolved? How is this related to social structuring in different historical contexts? How have shifts in the fields of education, economy, and the like contributed to social differentiation on the one hand, and been used as a tool of social distinction on the other hand? In this sense, how can we understand “middle class” as an affirmative self-designation or respectively a performative set of “self-fashioning” practices that are displayed to achieve or preserve a specific social identity? How has the term “middle class” emerged and developed, especially in reference to the region? How have scholars defined and used it as an analytical and descriptive concept? Which is the category’s function in mechanisms of social differentiation, inclusion, and exclusion? To what extent is the term “middle class” used to describe the self, rather than the other? How are Middle Eastern “middle classes” perceived from outside perspectives? What is the geography of cleavages within certain middle classes—and consequently, transnationally connected sub-groups?
• Contributions investigating Middle Eastern middle classes in the framework of globalization, migration, and transnationalization. What constitutes the so-called “global middle class”? How do tastes, habits, and products transcend borders and contribute to the formation and affirmation of social belonging? What can cultural phenomena that are emerging in pop culture and new media tell us about processes of universalization or differentiation of the “global middle classes”? Where are migrants, who move between different spaces, located in the respective social structures of different societies? How do mobile members of middle classes create and navigate in transnational spaces? What are the consequences of economic globalization and liberalization for their socio-economic position?
• Contributions examining relations between middle classes and regime politics, which can be analyzed from either perspective. How have middle classes been politicized and evolved into political subjects? What is their political and ideological orientation? To what extent do they act in the interest of particular middle classes, or for interests of other social groupings? Are middle classes genuine political opposition actors, or rather linked to actors of power? Which policies and rhetoric do regimes take up toward the middle class? How are regimes’ concepts of middle classes embedded in ideologies or in discourses of legitimacy?
We call for articles from a broad array of disciplines including political science, sociology, anthropology, literature studies, cultural studies, media studies, linguistics, history, and economics. We encourage articles that embed the concept of middle class in a broader context of social inequality, thus expanding the narrow focus of class and including parallel factors such as gender or ethnicity. Articles should be explicit about their definition of middle class.
Prior to developing a complete manuscript authors are asked to submit an abstract (300 words max.) with a short CV (150 words max.) and 3-5 key bibliographic sources to the editors who will make a preliminary decision regarding the topic’s relevance to the journal’s aims and scope.
Please consult our website for further information about the journal’s concept, sections, and authors’ guidelines.
All articles that fall into the general framework of the journal, but do not relate to the special topic “middle class,” will be taken into consideration for the “off topic” section of “Middle East – Topics & Arguments.”
The deadline for abstract submissions is June 30, 2013.
The deadline for article submissions is October 31, 2013.
Manuscripts and manuscript proposals and other editorial correspondence should be sent to: email@example.com.