In This Review

Informal Politics in the Middle East
Informal Politics in the Middle East
Edited by Suzi Mirgani
Hurst, 2021, 336 pp

This collection of only loosely connected essays covers subjects as varied as the diwans of Kuwait (the reception rooms in which gossip is exchanged and power is brokered), tribal politics in Yemen, social activism in Egypt, voluntary agricultural associations in an Algerian oasis, political campaigning in Turkey, sectarianism in Qatar, women’s advocacy in Iran, and the politics of urban slums (ashwaiyyat) in Cairo. The contributors do not agree on what constitutes informality, only that the venues in which people in the region gather to express informed opinions, promote public improvements, and devise collective solutions are enormously varied. The Middle East and North Africa constitute a region that is typically thought to be stripped of everyday politics by brutal governments and crippling violence. Taken together, however, the contributions to this volume convey an impressive resolve on the part of ordinary people to work inside, outside, against, or beside official channels to address common problems. This is less “informal” politics than a quotidian, community-based willingness—and sometimes insistence—to work together to enhance public life.