Guardian reviews Simon Brann Thorpe’s collection of photographs “Toy Soldiers,” with an introductory essay by Jacob Mundy

June 2015

The result is a series of images that show the absurdity of war, but also the plight of the individual soldier locked into a conflict that must seem endless. “It is difficult to look at Simon Brann Thorpe’s Toy Soldiers,” writes Mundy, “and not dwell on the powerful metaphor these photographs literally play with. Fighters in the Western Saharan liberation movement have become playthings. But whose toys are they, and what is the game being played?” These are the kinds of questions that echo through this odd, and oddly powerful, conceptual meditation on war – and war photography.

Open Democracy on Véronique Dudouet’s “Civil Resistance and Conflict Transformation”

May 2015

Dudouet has found authors to write on eight prominent contemporary cases in which movements have switched from armed to nonviolent methods: Western Sahara, West Papua, Palestine, South Africa, Chiapas, Colombia, Egypt and Nepal. Few of these stories are known to the wider public. Perhaps only the struggles in Palestine and South Africa are familiar through the mass media, and even in these cases the transition from armed to nonviolent methods is little known. So here is a valuable compendium of insights about a crucially important process that has escaped the notice of scholars and members of the public alike.

Review of Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh’s “The Ideal Refugees: Gender, Islam, and the Sahrawi Politics of Survival”

April 2015

The Ideal Refugees claims to make gender visible in the politics of Sahrawi refugee survival, but it does so at the expense of making the geopolitical conditions of the Sahrawis’ dispossession, exile, and brute refugeeness invisible. In The Ideal Refugees, the invisibility of the larger forces acting upon the Sahrawi refugees is evidenced in the fact that France and the United States, the two states that have done the most to determine the lives of Sahrawis through their support of Morocco on the UN Security Council, are mentioned so rarely as to be omitted from the book’s index. The connections between the conflict’s “high” politics of international diplomacy and the “low” politics of refugee survival are plainly obvious to most dedicated observers of the conflict. But all we get in The Ideal Refugees is the low politics of camp life vis-à-vis the entrenched rule of Polisario and the naiveté of solidarity activists.

Washington Post article and video on struggle of Western Sahara’s refugees

January 2015

Review of “Perspectives on Western Sahara: Myths, Nationalisms, and Geopolitics,” ed. by Anouar Boukhars and Jacques Roussellier

October 2014

Beware academic volumes that bear this disclaimer: “The views expressed are those of the authors alone.” Perspectives on Western Sahara, edited by Anouar Boukhars and Jacques Roussellier, contains several chapters in which this caveat is made. And for good reason: Perspectives on Western Sahara is primarily a political text, one backed by well-researched, if sometimes problematic, accounts of the conflict’s local, regional, and global dynamics. Most of the contributors have backgrounds in government, consulting, and think tanks; the others have formal academic positions. Several are well known for their defense of Morocco’s position on Western Sahara; others seem to have been recruited or shanghaied into the cause with little to no research or publication background on the issue. One of the chapters, an analysis of United States foreign policy towards the conflict, is even authored by two former US Foreign Service Officers who now work as lobbyists for Morocco, Edward Gabriel and Robert Holley. Boukhars and Roussellier’s collection also serves as a pro-Moroccan response to Western Sahara: War, Nationalism, and Conflict Irresolution, which this reviewer coauthored with Stephen Zunes in 2010. …read more

Citation: Jacob Mundy, “Perspectives on Western Sahara: Myths, Nationalisms, and Geopolitics ed. by Anouar Boukhars and Jacques Roussellier (review),” The Middle East Journal, 68(4), Autumn 2014, pp. 653-654 | 10.1353/mej.2014.0094

Recent analysis looks at role of international oil corporations and the Western Sahara dispute

September 2014

Middle East Eye and Middle East Economic Survey have examined the coming oil crisis in Western Sahara.

Waiting for Disruption: The Western Sahara Stalemate

September 2014

The Western Sahara conflict is fast approaching its 40th anniversary with no end in sight. A web of geopolitical interests keeps the conflict in a permanent state of limbo. At the heart of this web is the U.N. Security Council, which has managed the conflict since the late 1980s. The council has been historically reticent to take dramatic action to resolve the dispute and remains so today. Though there has been “peace” in Western Sahara since 1991 when a cease-fire came into effect, all efforts to reconcile Morocco’s claim of sovereignty against the local population’s right to self-determination have failed. The status quo thus seems indefinitely sustainable. Unless the conflict takes a sudden turn for the worse, it is unlikely that the international community will make the tough choices necessary to achieve a lasting solution. Therein lies the paradox of the Western Sahara peace process: The peace process now exists to contain the conflict, but only a crisis will save Western Sahara.

Western Sahara: nonviolent resistance as a last resort

September 2014

A chapter by Stephen Zunes and Jacob Mundy from Civil Resistance and Conflict Transformation: Transitions from Armed to Nonviolent Struggle, edited by Véronique Dudouet. Routledge Studies in Peace and Conflict Resolution, 2014.

This book investigates the decision-making process, rationale and determining factors which underlie the strategic shifts of armed movements from violent to nonviolent resistance. The revival of global interest in the phenomenon of nonviolent struggle since the 2011 Arab Spring offers a welcome opportunity to revisit the potential of unarmed resistance as an alternative pathway out of armed conflicts, in cases where neither military (or counter-insurgency) nor negotiated solutions have succeeded. This volume brings together academics from various disciplinary traditions and offers a wide range of case studies – including South Africa, Palestine and Egypt – through which to view the changes from violence to nonviolence within self-determination, revolutionary or pro-democracy struggles. While current historiography focuses on armed conflicts and their termination through military means or negotiated settlements, this book is a first attempt to investigate the nature and the drivers of transitions from armed strategies to unarmed methods of contentious collective action on the part of non-state conflict actors. The text concentrates in particular on the internal and relational factors which underpin the decision-making process, from a change of leadership and a pragmatic re-evaluation of the goals and means of insurgency in the light of evolving inter-party power dynamics, to the search for new local or international allies and the cross-border emulation or diffusion of new repertoires of action. This book will be of interest to students of security studies, peace and conflict studies, political sociology and IR in general.

Book review in International Journal of Middle East Studies

July 2014

Hugh Roberts (2014). Review of ‘Western Sahara: War, Nationalism and Conflict Irresolution’ International Journal of Middle East Studies, 46, pp 418-420. doi:10.1017/S0020743814000324.

Bringing the tribe back in? The Western Sahara dispute, ethno-history, and the imagineering of minority conflicts in the Arab world

March 2014

An essay by Jacob Mundy from the new book Multiculturalism and Minority Rights in the Arab World (Oxford University Press 2014), edited by Will Kymlicka and Eva Pföstl.

Since the Arab Spring, Arab states have become the new front line in the struggle for democratization and for open societies. As the experience of other regions has shown, one of the most significant challenges facing democratization relates to minority rights. This book explores how minority claims are framed and debated in the region, and in particular, how political actors draw upon, re-interpret, or resist both the new global discourses of minority rights and more local traditions and practices of co-existence. The contributors examine a range of pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial factors that shape contemporary minority politics in the Arab world, and that encumber the reception of international norms of multiculturalism. These factors include the contested legacies of Islamic doctrines of the `dhimmi’ and the Ottoman millet system, colonial-era divide and rule strategies, and post-colonial Arab nation-building. While these legacies complicate struggles for minority rights, they do not entail an `Arab exceptionalism’ to global trends to multiculturalism. This volume explores a number of openings for new more pluralistic conceptions of nationhood and citizenship, and suggests that minority politics at its best can serve as a vehicle for a more general transformative politics, supporting a broader culture of democracy and human rights, and challenging older authoritarian, clientalistic, or patriarchal political tendencies. The chapters include both broad theoretical and historical perspectives as well as more focused case studies (including Western Sahara/Morocco, Algeria, Israel/Palestine; Sudan; United Arab Emirates, and Iraq). Readership: Scholars and students of political theory, international relations, political philosophy, international law, human rights, ethnic studies, and Middle East politics.