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Unpublished Paper
The Power Of The Body: Analyzing The Corporeal Logic Of Law And Social Change In The Arab Spring
ExpressO (2015)
  • Zeina Jallad, Columbia University
  • Zeina Jallad, Columbia University

The Power of the Body:

Analyzing the Logic of Law and Social Change in the Arab Spring


Under conditions of extreme social and political injustice - when human rights are under the most threat - rational arguments rooted in the language of human rights are often unlikely to spur reform or to ensure government adherence to citizens’ rights. When those entrusted with securing human dignity, rights, and freedoms fail to do so, and when other actors—such as human rights activists, international institutions, and social movements—fail to engage the levers of power to eliminate injustice, then oppressed and even quotidian actors may resort to non-traditional tactics of resistance. One example of these radical tactics is the use of the corporeal body as a means of protest. In addition to being an expression of anger, the turn to the human body may catalyze legal, social, and cultural change where rational arguments fail.

In this article, I examine the power of the human body in spurring political and legal action. I analyze the 2010 self-immolation of Tarek Mohammad Bouazizi in Tunisia, which sparked an unprecedented wave of protests across Arab countries, leading to what came to be known as the “Arab Spring.” I suggest that when human rights–based arguments are exhausted, space is created for alternative strategies of resistance. Mobilized and deployed as tools of resistance, human bodies become the “argument.”

  • human body,
  • human rights law,
  • democratic and popular constitutionalism,
  • international law,
  • social movements and legal mobilization,
  • biopolitics,
  • legal theory,
  • law and society,
  • Islam,
  • Middle East,
  • Arab Spring.
Publication Date
July 30, 2015
Citation Information
Zeina Jallad and Zeina Jallad. "The Power Of The Body: Analyzing The Corporeal Logic Of Law And Social Change In The Arab Spring" ExpressO (2015)
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