Provincializing and Localizing Core-Periphery Relations

Cilja Harders


The paper engages with core-periphery conceptions because they are a useful Denkfigur in a time of increasing global interconnectedness. I argue that the coreperiphery metaphor is a useful one because it provides us with a relational tool of analysis and at the same time with a focus on asymmetric power relations. But it also has some serious limitations, such as a tendency to be over-deterministic and to be too global in scale. In order to address these limitations, I suggest rescaling Prebisch, Amin and Wallerstein's global conception of core and periphery to the local scale. I hold that we need to "provincialize" the core-periphery metaphor, to borrow Chakrabarty's (2000) famous term, and to make the agency of local actors more relevant to our understanding of political dynamics in the MENA region. This paper sketches how "provincialized" and "localized" ways of using the core-periphery metaphor could look. This part builds on the main ideas Malika Bouziane, Anja Hoffmann and I developed in the introduction to our volume Local Politics and Contemporary Transformations in the Arab World, as well as my approach of a "state analysis from below."


Core-Periphery; Agency-Structure; Politics Beyond the Center; Arab Transformations

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Cilja Harders is the director of the “Center for Middle Eastern and North African Politics” at the Otto-Suhr Institute for Political Sciences at Freie Universität Berlin. She has extensive research experience in the Middle East since 1992 with a focus on Egypt. She has published on transformations and politics “from below”, local politics, Arab-European Relations as well as gender relations. She directs a DAAD funded project on “Challenges and Transformations in the Wake of the Arab Spring” with Cairo University as well as a DFG funded project on “Politics and Emotions”. She co-edited a book on “Local Politics and Contemporary Transformations in the Arab World,” with Palgrave in 2013.