An International and Collaborative Research Programme

Seminar Session: February 7, 2022: Matthieu Rey

Between Elections and Constitution: ‘the people’ as body politic (1943-1963)

Februar 07, 2022. 16h00-18h00 (Berlin Time). Registration:


Government from the people, to the people is a common assumption of what democracy is. However, very few historical examples depict democratic systems by putting the people in the institutions. On the contrary, representative systems pretended to address the issue of bringing the people in. In Iraq and Syria from 1946 to 1958, these issues animated intense debates of “who” the people was. This presentation explores how both parliamentary systems and their leaders questioned the notion of people as body politic. Their discussions reframed the very base of sovereign people in both countries. Certainly it was a gender issue but  several other criteria led representatives to develop discourses whom has to vote and who could enter the parliament. From this perspective, representative system was not a static regime. On the contrary, a tension animated the debates and the votes.

Matthieu Rey is currently director of contemporary studies at IFPO. He graduated at EHESS Paris in 2013. He is the author of numerous books and papers on the question of parliamentarism in the Middle East, and particularly in Iraq in the 1950s. In a 2012 article he analyzed election processes in 1954 in Iraq and Syria. His research focused on mechanisms of protest and moblization with, for example, a 2010 paper: “La Wathba: manifester en Irak en 1948“. Matthieu Rey developed an attention to the scale of neighbourhoods too with a 2013 chapter on Syria: “La révolte des quartiers: territorialisation plutôt que confessionalisation“. He also studied the impact of the Cold War on local politics in the Middle East with “Domestiquer la Guerre froide au Moyen-Orient” and “‘Fighting colonialism’ versus ‘non- alignment’: two Arab points of view on the Bandung Conference” as well as the interaction between international organizations and the region: “How Did the Middle East Meet the West? The International United Nations Agencies’ Surveys in the 1950s“. With Laura Ruiz de Elvia he published in 2020 the paper “Luttes de sens“, on the question of the wording of politics in a revolutionary context.

His newest book, When Parliaments ruled the Middle East: Iraq and Syria (1946-1963) is published in 2022 by The American University in Cairo Press.

Next session: March 14, 2022

Full 2020-2021-2022 programme of the HISDEMAB seminar

Cite this blog post
Nora Lafi (2022, January 30). Seminar Session: February 7, 2022: Matthieu Rey. The Historicity of Democracy. Retrieved June 19, 2024, from

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