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Photo: “European Union Flags 2“, by Thijs ter Haar, licensed under CC BY 2.0. Hue modified from the original

Del Sarto, Raffaella A., and Simone Tholens. Resisting Europe: Practices of Contestation in the Mediterranean Middle East. University of Michigan Press, 2020.


Resisting Europe conceptualizes the foreign policies of Europe–defined as the European Union and its member states–toward the states in its immediate southern “neighborhood” as semi-imperial attempts to turn these states into Europe’s southern buffer zone, or borderlands. In these hybrid spaces, different types of rules and practices coexist and overlap, and negotiations over meaning and implementation take place. This book examines the diverse modalities by which states in the Mediterranean Middle East and North Africa (MENA) reject, resist, challenge, modify, or entirely change European policies and preferences and provides rich empirical evidence of these contestation practices in the fields of migration and border control, banking and finance, democracy promotion, and telecommunications. It addresses the complex question of when and how MENA states capitalize on their leverage and interdependence in their relationships with Europe and contributes to a more comprehensive understanding of Europe-Middle East relations, while engaging with broader debates on power and interdependence, order, and contestation in international relations. While a contribution on the practices of resistance and contestation of MENA states vis-à-vis European policies and preferences in this geopolitically significant region was overdue, this volume leads the way for subsequent studies that seek to overcome the constraints of exceptionalism so characteristic of research of the Middle East, Europe/the European Union, and certainly of their relationship.

Table of contents

  • Introduction
    • Resisting Europe: Practices of Contestation in the Mediterranean Middle East
      Raffaella A. Del Sarto and Simone Tholens
  • Part I: Conceptualizing a Contested Relationship
    • Petits arrangements avec l’Empire: Reflections on Imperial Power at Its Fringes
      Magali Gravier
    • Creating Order in the MENA Neighborhood: The Enlargement of the European International Society and Its Contestation
      Yannis A. Stivachtis
  • Part II: Contestation in Practice
    • Domesticating Egypt, Domesticated by Egypt? Cooperation and Contestation in EU-Promoted Banking Supervision Reform
      Roberto Roccu
    • Leapfrogging the EU: Telecommunications Regulation in Morocco
      Véronique Wavre and Tina Freyburg
    • The European Union and Turkey: Negotiating the Management of Europe’s Extended External Borders
      Asli S. Okyay
    • Leverage and Contestation in Refugee Governance: Lebanon and Europe in the Context of Mass Displacement
      Tamirace Fakhoury
    • Contesting Europe’s Policies of Migration Control: The Case of Morocco and Tunisia
      Mohamed Limam and Raffaella A. Del Sarto
    • From “Imperial Overreach” to “Blowback”: The EU, the Mediterranean Borderlands, and the Syrian Crisis
      Raymond Hinnebusch
  • Conclusions
    • The Power to Contest in Europe-Middle East Relations
      Raffaella A. Del Sarto and Simone Tholens

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.