In The Idea of Justice, Amartya Sen offers an interpretation of the biblical Good Samaritan according to which the Samaritan stops not because he recognizes the need of his neighbor, but because through the act of stopping he enters into a neighborly relation. Practice similarly helped to constitute neighborly relations for Yemeni activists who forged new solidarities through their experiences during the eleven-month uprising of 2011 and its aftermath. Yemeni activists across the political spectrum—from Marxists to Islamists to liberal constitutionalists—have remarked that late nights spent in the squares writing slogans, making posters, and preparing and serving meals fundamentally altered their sense of self in relation to differently situated others. Rather than articulating a single national(ist) project, however, many activists speak of solidarities made in difference, or what political philosopher Iris Marion Young described as “a relationship among separate and dissimilar actors who decide to stand together, for one another.” These solidarities resulted in new and concrete forms of activism, which the formal transitional process has severely undermined. The experiences of Yemeni activists stand as an important reminder to scholars to attend to the intersection of formal and informal in our analysis of the politics of the Arab uprisings.
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