An International and Collaborative Research Programme

Seminar Session: July 8, 2021: Holger Nehring

Theoretical Reflections on Social Movements: contestations of liberal democracies and laboratories of democratic practices

July 08, 2021. 15h00-17h00 (Berlin Time) Registration:


With some exceptions, sociological research first conceptualised social movements as a specific response to the perceived demise and collapse of what Martin Conway has called ‘the West European model of democracy’. Other more historically-orientated works has focused on the broader ‘dynamics of contention’ (Charles Tilly) in which social movements were just one parameter. More recent work in political science, sociology and history has considered the role of social movements within the field of democracy and democratic practices. This talk seeks to visit and revisit some of these conceptual and theoretical debates and explore where a historical sociology of social movements in the context of democracy might go. It will emphasise the historicity of conceptualisations of ‘social movements’ and ‘democracy’ and thus emphasise the need for reviving a historical sociology of social movements.

Holger Nehring is Professor of Contemporary European History at the University of Stirling, UK. He has published widely on the history of social movements, especially peace movements. Together with Stefan Berger co-edits the book series Palgrave Studies in the History of Social Movements. Among his latest publications: “Challenging the Myths of the Scottish Sixties” (in Moving the Social, 2020); “Remembering War, Forgetting Hiroshima: “Euroshima” and the West German Anti-Nuclear Weapons Movements in the Cold War” (in Ikenberry GJ & Gordin MD (eds.), The Age of Hiroshima. Princeton, 2020); “Grenzen der Demokratie?” Bundesdeutsche Friedensbewegungen und die Westarbeit der SED im Übergang von den 1950er zu den 1960er Jahren” [“Limits of Democracy?” West German peace movements and he SED’s Western Department from the 1950s to te 1960s], In: Berger S., Dietz B. & Muller-Enbergs H. (eds.), Das Ruhrgebiet im Fokus der Westarbeit der DDR (Essen, 2020); “Energy and War. Debates about Nuclear Energy in early-Cold War West Germany” (Groniek, 2020); The History of Social Movements in Global Perspective (ed. with S. Berger, Palgrave, 2017); Politics, Symbols and the Public Sphere (2005).

Next session: November 2021 (Programme to be announced in September 2021)

Full 2020-2021 programme of the HISDEMAB seminar

An International and Collaborative Research Programme

Seminar Session: June 24, 2021: Falestin Naili

“Colonial contingencies: the political marginalisation of the municipality of Jerusalem under the British Mandate”

June 24, 2021. 15h00-17h00 (Berlin Time). Registration:


During the transition from the end of the Ottoman period to the instauration of the British Mandate rule in Palestine, the sphere of urban governance in Jerusalem underwent a major transformation. Ottoman civic institutions such as the municipal council were slowly stripped off their power in favor of confessional representatives and British “experts”.

Under British military rule, many powers originally vested in the municipality, such as town planning, were transferred to the Pro-Jerusalem Society, a non-governmental organization established by Governor Robert Storrs. Once the mandate was officially established, these powers were given to the Town Planning Commission. The municipality thus lost much of the influence and importance it used to have during the late Ottoman period.

Whereas the composition of the Ottoman municipal council had been determined by the condition of Ottoman citizenship, population statistics and the censitary suffrage system, during the Mandate period, confessional identity became a structuring element of this level of governance. In fact, the mayor had to be Muslim, one deputy mayor Jewish and the other Christian.

Municipal elections were the only ones more or less successfully organized by the British mandate authorities in Palestine, since the attempt of holding legislative elections failed due to massive Arab boycott. So in the absence of political representation on the level of the country, municipal councils were the only government-sanctioned space for representation.

The Municipal Corporations Ordinance of 1934 was supposed to revise the legal basis on which the municipal council had continued to function after the end of Ottoman rule. The elaboration of the bill, hotly debated both in London and in Palestinian cities, was lengthy and difficult. The analysis of its drafts, as well as the comments and petitions received, shed light on the conditions under which Arab political representation and organization occurred during this period.

Falestin Naili is a historian associated with the Institut français du Proche-Orient (Ifpo) in Amman and the Laboratoire de Recherches Historiques Rhône-Alpes (LARHRA) in Lyon. She specializes in the social history of the late Ottoman and Mandate Palestine and Jordan and has focused much of her recent research on local governance and politics, particularly in Jerusalem. Through her interest in collective memory and oral history she often reaches present-time issues, including the politics of heritage and folklore.

She was a core team member of the ERC project Opening Jerusalem’s Archives before joining Ifpo Amman as a researcher and head of office between 2017 and 2020.

Her Ph.D. thesis (“La mémoire et l’oubli à Artâs : un élément de l’histoire rurale de la Palestine, 1848-1948“), defended in Aix-en-Provence in 2007, deals with the history of the village of Artas south of Bethlehem in the second half of the 19th and the first half of the 20th century and with the collective memory of this period among villagers and descendants of Europeans who settled in the village. It will be published in 2022 under the title  La Palestine entre Patrimoine et Providence : régimes d’historicité et mémoire au village d’Artâs au XIX et XX siècles.

In her other publications, Falestin Naïli has dealt with urban governance in Jerusalem, millenarist settlement and missionary projects in Palestine, forced migration in the contemporary Middle East, early ethnographies of Palestine, and collective memory and heritage issues in these contexts.

Among her publications:

The DeMunicipalization of Urban Governance Post-Ottoman Political Space in Jerusalem” (2018); (with A. Muhtadi) « Back into the Imperial Fold: The End of Egyptian Rule through the Court Records of Jerusalem, 1839-1840 », in Angelos Dalachanis & Vincent Lemire (ed.), Ordinary Jerusalem 1840-1940, Leiden, Brill, 2018, p. 186-199; “Chronique d’une mort annoncée* ? La municipalité ottomane de Jérusalem dans la tourmente de la Première Guerre mondiale” (2017); (with Y. Avci & V. Lemire), « Publishing Jerusalem’s Ottoman Municipal Archives (1892-1917): A Turning Point for the City’s Historiography », Jerusalem Quarterly, no. 60, 2015, pp. 110-119; « Memories of Home and Stories of Displacement: The Women of Artas and the “Peasant Past”», Journal of Palestine Studies, no. 152, Summer 2009, p.63-74; « Les déplacés de 1967 : des réfugiés en devenir ? », in A. Signoles/ J. Al-Husseini (eds.), Les Palestiniens entre Etat et diaspora. Le temps des incertitudes, Paris : IISMM/ Karthala, 2012, p. 67-94

Next session: July 8, 2021: Holger Nehring (University of Sterling) “Theoretical Reflections on Social Movements: contestation of liberal democracies and laboratories of democratic practices

Full 2020-2021 programme of the HISDEMAB seminar

An International and Collaborative Research Programme

Seminar Session: June 10, 2021: Rashid Khalidi

Anti-colonial Movements in the Middle East and the question of democracy”

June 10, 2021. 15h00-17h00 (Berlin Time). Registration:


Rashid Khalidi will examine in this lecture the issue of democracy in the Palestinian liberation struggle, over three periods: 

1. The Mandate, when there were few avenues allowing a democratic movement to emerge, and the still dominant elites were clientelist and patriarchal rather than democratic in orientation. 

 2. The period of the revived national movement, 1950’s-1980’s, when the political groups enjoyed a measure of internal democracy, and the PLO broadly represented sectors of the Palestinian people, but the leadership was often not responsive to the base or democratic in its inclinations.

3. The Oslo era, until the present, saw a brief period of formal democracy for the minority of Palestinians, which was soon abandoned in favor of authoritarian governance under overall control by the occupation.

Rashid Khalidi is Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University in New-York (Department of History).  He received his BA from Yale in 1970, and his D.Phil. from Oxford in 1974. He is editor of the Journal of Palestine Studies, and was President of the Middle East Studies Association, and an advisor to the Palestinian delegation to the Madrid and Washington Arab-Israeli peace negotiations from October 1991 until June 1993. He is author of: The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine: A History of Settler Colonialism and Resistance, 1917- 2017 (2020); Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S. has Undermined Peace in the Middle East (2013); Sowing Crisis: American Dominance and the Cold War in the Middle East (2009); The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood (2006); Resurrecting Empire: Western Footprints and America’s Perilous Path in the Middle East (2004); Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness (1996); Under Siege: PLO Decision-Making During the 1982 War (1986); British Policy Towards Syria and Palestine, 1906-1914 (1980); and co-editor of Palestine and the Gulf (1982) and The Origins of Arab Nationalism (1991), and The Other Jerusalem: Rethinking the History of the Sacred City (2020).

Next session: June 24, 2021Falestin Naili (IFPO Amman) will present her research on “Colonial Contingencies: the Political Marginalisation of the Municipality of Jerusalem under the British Mandate

Full 2020-2021 programme of the HISDEMAB seminar

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