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The Language of Revolution, Reaction Paper Example

Pages: 3

Words: 746

Reaction Paper

“The Language of Revolution: Tidings from the East” by Ariella Azoulay

In this article, Ariella Azoulay focuses her argument on the phrase “The Revolution is in danger” which she claims dates back to the days of Olympe de Gouges (1748 to 1793), a French Revolution philosopher who espoused the declaration of the rights of women and warned Queen Marie Antoinette that she must support the revolution in France or see the monarchy collapse. In fact, the French monarchy did collapse and Antoinette lost her head via the guillotine; so did de Gouge in 1793 after being identified as a revolutionary and an outspoken woman which at the time was highly frowned upon by French society.

Azoulay then places this phrase in context with the revolution in Egypt that ended in February of 2011 when Dr. Nawal Al Sadawi, a prominent Egyptian revolutionary much in line with Mlle. de Gouge, announced that the “Revolution is in danger” and that the rights of Egyptian women were also in danger (2011, p. 1) of disappearing from the social discourse on changing ancient laws and practices that made women in the Middle East less than citizens and mere household property.

In this context, Azoulay puts forth the proposition that revolution should be viewed as a language unto itself, a sort of “civil language” that is different and entirely separate from the sovereign power or government of a given nation like Egypt and other nations in the Middle East which are now caught up in much turmoil and political and religious unrest. Azoulay also points out that this language “requires the creation of a new political contract between the citizens and the various regimes” that currently control and dominate many cultures in the Middle East. Historically, a majority of these regimes or governmental power structures date back to the days of British colonialism during the 19th century when the British monarchy via imperialism manipulated the lives of all the citizens in an effort to Westernize them so as to believe in and practice Western ideals and principles, especially Christianity and Democracy (Azoulay, 2011, p. 2).

Azoulay even provides some physical attributes of this revolutionary language, such as protesters throwing stones at the police, national flags emblazoned with graffiti, roadways and streets blocked by haphazard barricades, setting cars and buildings on fire, destroying portraits of current rulers, and providing testimony on some of the unjust acts of the reigning government on national television and cable channels like CNN (2011, p. 2). Thus, these acts and behaviors can be seen as “civil syntax” or the various processes that control how a language is spoken, read, and written by a particular culture or group of people.  In many ways, this civil language of revolution takes us back to the days of the French Revolution when de Gouge and her contemporaries encouraged the citizens of Paris to rise up and destroy the French monarchy with the first step being the storming of the Bastille which symbolized one of the physical attributes of the language of the French Revolution.

This article reminds me of Michael Jensen’s piece called “The Global Nomad” in Chopra and Gajjala’s Global Media, Culture, and Identity in which Jensen refers to the term “deterritorialization” (a word that Jensen obviously concocted himself due to not being found in the OED) which concerns the idea that social spaces are no longer necessarily geographic. However, Azoulay’s tendency to call revolution a language is somewhat confusing, due to the fact that the term “language” is generally defined as a type of communication related to speaking and using words via linguistics. I feel that Azoulay should have come up with some other term to describe the context of a revolution. One important question was raised after reading this article–in her conclusion, Azoulay declares that displaced persons, such as refugees and social inferiors, need to rise up and work together as a team in order to conquer or overthrow regimes that despite being based on democracy, repress their people as individual. Therefore, how does Azoulay think this can be accomplished, considering that the power structures of many regimes are supported by even more powerful entities like the United States? Certainly, the answer is unknown at this time. Thus, much like Jensen’s “Global Nomad” article, this one by Azoulay would serve as an excellent starting point for a paper on her “revolution as a language” description.

References

Azoulay, A. (2011). The language of revolution: Tidings from the East. Critical Inquiry. University of Chicago. Retrieved from http://criticalinquiry.uchicago.edu/the_language_of_revolution_azoulay

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