14 February 2013
Much of the rhetoric on foreign affairs and diplomacy that populated the lead-up to the re-election of President Obama, as per consuetude, focused on grand strategic plans, major international shifts and large-scale confrontations with enemies, elements, and unknowns. Indeed, this has been the general tone of the discussions around questions of democracy promotion and the transition challenges for closed regimes such as those in the Middle East. Alongside these, the traditional precepts of bottom-up revolutions and liberal internationalist means for public diplomacy with oppressed populations have continued to capture the attention of the U.S. policy establishment.
Little attention, on the other hand, seems to be offered to the role of those mundane realities and relations that constitute the daily socio-political texture of these closed contexts. Yet, the ‘everyday’ and the local do not only matter for foreign policy: rather, they are strategic gateways into the visceral structures that uphold these regimes and can prompt long-term revolutionary changes. Contemporary cities, in particular, can offer a unique vantage point capable of producing critical knowledge not only about the urbanized condition of humanity but also about major social, economic, and cultural revolutions in our society. The politics of governance and accountability in these closed regimes are not free from this pervasiveness.