Decentralization as Self-Determination?: Exploring confederalism in the MENA region

The Arab uprisings of 2011 gave way to counter-revolution, authoritarian retrenchment or even state failure. Yet this bleak prognosis is insufficiently attentive to communities on the ground that continue to pursue forms of self-government and undertake local experiments in imagining alternative futures. In this paper, we explore innovative approaches to self-determination obscured when we focus exclusively on developments driven by the centralized and authoritarian nation-states of the MENA region. These local projects deserve attention because they complicate our understanding of the contemporary politics of the region and represent bottom-up experiences with (and conceptions of) democratic practice. In particular, we examine and compare recent experiments with confederal models of governance among the Kurdish communities of Turkey and Syria, based on the idea of “democratic confederalism”, and grassroots efforts in Israel-Palestine to imagine a binational confederal future.